From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Journalist Cries Out Against ‘Tyranny’ in Judiciary
Aug 26, 2010, 17:12

A young promising Sierra Leone journalist has cried out for help from what seems to be a developing pattern of outright tyranny as practised by certain Magistrates in the Sierra Leone Judiciary. Arthwah Maddie is a journalist writing for the local tabloid FOR DI PEOPLE who was locked up on the orders of Magistrate Bankole Shyllon under highly questionable circumstances. He is not the first journalist to be subjected to such. Less than a year ago, female journalist Manjia Balema Samba was subjected to similar maltreatment at hands of a Kenema Magistrate. She was abandoned by Sierra Leone Association of Journalists despite a SLAJ AGM Resolution to probe the matter. It appears this abandonment of Manjia Balema Samba’s righteous cause by SLAJ has emboldened latest development on Arthwah Maddie.

This incident all started when the young journalist authored an article and submitted it to his Editor for publication. It concerned an 18 year old allegedly found wanting in a matter of sexual abuse. Human error resulted in the newspaper’s typist seeing ‘18 years’ written by Arthwah Maddie but typing it out as ‘15 years’ and this was oversighted until it went to press. The error of ‘15 years’ appearing where ‘18 years’ should have appeared is what resulted in the young journalist being taken for several hours as a prisoner locked up in a stinking prison cell amongst common criminals with an alleged threat to repeat the act for a prolonged period of up to eight (8) days now being levied at the young journalist. Magistrate Bankole Shyllon took this unprecedented action of ordering for the journalist to be locked up following the erroneous age publication.

Arthwah Maddie spoke to Awareness Times yesterday August 25th 2010 during a visit to our offices. According to the traumatised but courageous young journalist, he said the episode started on the 18th August 2010, when his newspaper, FOR DI PEOPLE published an article where the typist made the mistake of typing ‘15 years’ instead of the ‘18 years’ he had written down in his notes.

Arthwah Maddie: Now afraid to enter Law Courts

He further continued that "on that same fateful day, I was around the precincts of the court with my colleague journalists when a police officer, PC Kamara 781 informed me that Magistrate Bankole Shyllon wanted to see me inside his private Chambers in the Judiciary".

Maddie said that being a law-abiding journalist, he quickly obeyed and went to the Magistrate's Private Chambers.

"When I entered his Chambers, he asked me if I was the author of that story and I replied yes. Before I could realise what was happening, Magistrate Shyllon quickly ordered PC Kamara 781 to take me to the prison lock-up and detain me with the criminals from Pademba Road," Arthwah Maddie explained adding that he was detained for four (4) good hours and was only released late in the evening on the plea of some lawyers who happened to learn of his fate.

The journalist said all those he has contacted so far including senior lawyers and senior journalists have described the action of Magistrate Shyllon as unprecedented, unwarranted and very unlawful.

Meanwhile, Arthwah says he is now frightened to enter the Judiciary to cover sittings because Magistrate Shyllon has allegedly vowed, in the presence of other journalists, to send the young man to the State Pademba Road Prisons for 8 days whenever he sets eyes on him. This alleged vow came about because FOR DI PEOPLE took the bold step to report on the grievous treatment received by Arthwah Maddie at the hands of Magistrate Shyllon in their subsequent article that came out on Friday 20 August 2010.

When this newspaper visited the Magistrate at his private Chambers at the Judiciary yesterday to get his own side of the serious allegation that he was abusing his authority and acting in excess of his mandate as a Magistrate, Magistrate Shyllon was hyper-active as he vigilantly refused to comment.

"I will not talk to any journalist on this matter and if any more of you local journalists offend me, I will take another drastic action," he said with unconcealed venom in the presence of some of his colleague Magistrates. Even though his colleagues magistrate tried to prevail on him to speak to this presshouse, he was very adamant and all that he could afford were even more threatening remarks.

Our reporter then went upstairs to see the man in charge of the supervision of Magistrates, Supreme Court Justice Maitland Emeric Tolla-Thompson but although Justice Tolla-Thompson was polite in his own approach to us, he declined to comment on the matter but instead referred us to see Law Courts Master Elwyn Bailor.

When our reporter met the Master, Elwyn Bailor inside his office, he also tried to evade making a comment but upon persistence and reminders of the Judiciary's promise to be more open with the press, he has now promised to speak to this newspaper on the issue at 10 am prompt this morning.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It is important to note that indeed, FOR DI PEOPLE tabloid is known as being extremely virulent in its coverage of the operations of the Judiciary. However, the Judiciary, being the last bastion of redress in a democratic society should never be seen as being vengeful or carrying out personal vendetta regardless of how virulent a journalist's writing against them might be.

This is why the cries of Arthwah Maddie have caused great consternation to anyone who listens to the piteous claims he is making and for which the said perpetrator of his torment, Principal Magistrate M. A. Bankole Shyllon, has not only declined to comment upon but has even threatened to do even more of such.

Surely, this is not the image of the Judiciary that Sierra Leone desires to portray right now. One, in which a journalist gets thrown into jail for simply having a typist at his newspaper making a human error. No procedure of Contempt was followed. The journalist was just invited into a Magistrate’s private Chambers, asked questions and then thrown into a filthy prison cell for criminals. It does not sound very constitutional especially when seen in light of Section 120(5) and Section 17 of the Sierra Leone Constitution. We will listen to Master Elwyn Bailor this morning and report further on this important issue in our tomorrow edition of Awareness Times.

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