From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Afsatu Kabba
In Sierra Leone, Afsatu Kabba Trial Judge pardons News Editors
By Aruna Turay
Jun 29, 2010, 17:04

The Managing Editor of the Independent Observer newspaper, Jonathan Leigh and his deputy, Bai Bai Sesay were on Monday 28th June 2010 acquitted and discharged by High Court Judge, Justice Samuel Ademusu on grounds that the publication for which they were issued bench warrant to appear before the honourable court was published out of ignorance. This was after cautioning that without strong reasons, the duo deserved being sent to the maximum prison at Pademba Road for such a crime.

Led in defense was Lawyer Yada Williams who made the application of mercy on their behalf. In his submission, Lawyer Williams said that after lengthy discussion with his clients, he came to learn that the accused persons published the photograph of a protected witness on the front page of their newspaper out of mere ignorance of the exact content of the said court order that called for the identities of all such witnesses to be protected.

"That is why my Lord, the two accused persons have requested me to appeal to the court on their behalf as they have vowed not to repeat their action again," Yada Williams pleaded.

Lawyer Williamís submission of plea to the court was honourably granted by the presiding Judge who accordingly and unconditionally discharged the two editors after cautioning them to be mindful next time when making publications of matters of such sensitivity, especially when sub judicie.

By way of solidarity, the two editors were accompanied to High Court by a strong SLAJ representation headed by the National Secretary General, Mustapha Sesay and the PRO Rachel Horner.

It could be recalled that on Friday 25th June 2010, the High Court of Sierra Leone issued a Warrant of Arrest for the two journalists for them to be brought to explain why they should not be held for contempt and sent to Pademba Road prisons.

The Independent Observer, widely seen as highly sympathetic to Haja Afsatu Kabba is the fourth news outlet to have fallen foul of the no-nonsense Justice Ademusu during this State versus Afsatu Kabba trial. The first was Awareness Times which was warned for describing the witnesses as liars and "making conclusions". The second was Sierra Express Media which was warned for writing a headline that Afsatu Kabba acted illegally when the contents of the article did not uphold the headline especially as only the Court could make such a conclusion. The third news outlet was a magazine operated from London known as New Africa Analysis which was also cautioned for making wild allegations and disparaging the Judiciary. The Afsatu Kabba trial has been one of the most widely covered by the media in the History of Sierra Leone. Journalists have been scrambling to get seats in the courtroom each time the matter is called up.

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