The Sierra Leone Bar Association is demanding “respect from members of the public, including publishers and publishing houses” for its members. While we at COCORIOKO agree with members of the Bar that “the judiciary of Sierra Leone holds a very sacred and important part of the Government of Sierra Leone and ought to be treated as a distinct and honourable arm of Government”, as colorfully elucidated by the selfsame public statement, we do not believe that the SLBA should demand respect from the public .
Respect is not something you demand, learned sirs. Respect is something you earn.
When some of the judges of judicature fail to draw the line and engage in clandestine relationships and dealings with questionable members of the public, especially errant journalists, what respect do they deserve?
We have been vigorously advocating for the judges of the Supreme Court to be given the respect due them and their legal reasoning and verdicts should be respected and upheld. We stand by our last editorial that Sierra Leoneans should not impute wrongdoing to our learned justices since, constitutionally, the Supreme Court has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all the courts in the land and is the final interpreter of criminal, civil and constitutional law. We will continue to enjoin Sierra Leoneans not to seek to impede the functionality of the Supreme Court or to demean the credibility and respect of the justices through defamatory comments and allegations.
However, we do not understand where the SLBA would factor in a judge , like His Honor Justice Allan Halloway, who has been accused of soliciting and collecting bribes and even arrested and dragged out of his chambers to the Anti-Corruption Commission ( ACC ) to answer to charges of corruption. He was even suspended from the bench.
When such a judge with a baggage makes a questionable ruling like Justice Halloway did in the matter between Independent Observer Publisher, Jonathan Leigh and the Independent Media Commission (IMC), journalists deserve the right to comment on his fitness to be a judge within the ambit of our much-vaunted Multi-party democracy and Freedom of the Press, which are the hallmark of the President Ernest Koroma Government. To try to intimidate the Publisher of Awareness Times, Dr. Sylvia Blyden, for questioning Halloway’s fitness for service is anti-democratic and unconscionable.
The IMC is the constitutionally -established body for regulating the practice of journalism in Sierra Leone to ensure that media men and women perform their trade according to law and the ethics of their profession. The IMC was empowered to impose fines where necessary and the fines for the various offences were established legally. In other words, the IMC enjoys a full measure of legality to impose these fines on errant journalists to protect the reputation and rights of the public and to make sure that journalists practice within the law.
If Halloway found that “The Commission followed the correct procedures in dealing with the matter” between Jonathan Leigh and Sylvia Blyden/ Kabs Kanu (whom the publisher falsely accused of engaging in an amorous relationship) and two that “The Commission did not violate the principles of natural justice in handling the matter”, what business has the judge ruling that the fines imposed on Leigh were excessive and should be reduced? Does this judge not care for the rights and reputation of the public? Does he not know that such rulings, when they establish precedents in the law that tie the hands of the IMC, will encourage our journalists to become more reckless and careless with the manner in which they practice their trade?
Justice Halloway cannot tell anybody that he is not aware of the charade our journalists have made of the ethics of the profession and the law with their blackmail, intimidation and defamation of the good reputation of members of the public. Nobody reads our newspapers without noticing that our journalism is all about smear politics. With impunity, newspapers take liberties in damaging the good names of innocent people. It is this malaise in our journalism that the IMC is trying to cure. Why is Halloway trying to impede the good work of the IMC to protect his friends, like Jonathan Leigh, who robustly defended him during his corruption charges by the ACC?
Sylvia Blyden is simply saying that perversion of justice by rogues justices contributed to the war.
We at COCORIOKO have no problems with respecting judges and lawyers ; in fact, we advocate it.
But the Bar Association is wrong to demand respect for justices who have engaged in corruption and have even been arrested and suspended from work. RESPECT IS EARNED. IT IS NOT DEMANDED .
Halloway is accused of being a rogue judge and nobody has publicly exonerated him yet. And he added insult to injury by seeking to water down the earnest desires of the IMC to clean up the augean stables of journalism.
Until judges like Halloway change and begin living up to expectation, the Sierra Leone Bar Association has no right to demand respect for them.
Let them earn their own respect.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.