From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Seditious Libel & a Head of State : Culled from SIERRA LEONE ISSUES Facebook Group
By Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Nov 4, 2013, 12:16

My dear members of this worthy group, here are my thoughts on some of the comments floated in the wake of President Koromaís words that he has nothing to do with the ongoing criminal trial of Jonathan Leigh and Bai-bai Sesay at the law courts. Many have claimed it is impossible to charge for seditious libel against the Head of State without his consent. Well, they are wrong and President Koroma is quite correct.


You see, the process that leads to a seditious libel charge is a very interesting legal experience to study.


First of all, it is probably the only criminal charge in the world where the subject directly affected by the offence does not need to know, give consent or be involved in any stage of the police or subsequent courts proceedings.


If citizens feel a publication has stirred discontent in their local polity to extent that could cause sections of the citizenry to rise up against those conducting the business of government, the offended citizens do not need to reach anyone in Government. All they need to do is report to the nearest police station that a member of the government might be subjected to hate and disaffection because of the offensive publication.


The next process is for the Police, upon receiving the complaint, to investigate the complaint. If the police investigators find prima facie evidence during the investigations, the Police can then charge to court for seditious libel - all of this without the Head of State being involved or informed.

In fact, for Seditious Libel in Sierra Leone, out of the entire Government machinery from President down, only the ATTORNEY GENERAL can be cited as definitely being knowledgeable. This is because Section 34.(2) of the 1965 Public Order Act says unlike ordinary defamatory libel filed by citizens in their personal capacity, for which any Police Station can directly charge to court without recourse to legal advise from Law Officers department, NO CHARGE for seditious libel can be prosecuted in Sierra Leone without first the written consent of the Attorney General.


Bottomline, the ongoing seditious libel matter is being prosecuted based on a complaint from citizens especially of the ruling APC, who feel aggrieved that the APC Chairman & Leader has been exposed to undue hate with accompanying possible threats on his life and have thus asked the State to prosecute those responsible for this.


President Koroma is thus correct to say he has no hands in the ongoing criminal trial.

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