More than 25 Journalists are Victims of Criminal Libel Law

By Augustine Sankoh

The president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), Mr. Kelvin Lewis said, “From 2007 to now (2016) over 25 journalists have been arrested, interrogated, detained and/or jailed and two have been convicted of Criminal Libel.”
He made this disclosure, on Tuesday May 3, at a symposium in Freetown to mark World Press Freedom Day with the theme, “Access to information and Fundamental Freedom - this is your right!”
World Press Freedom Day is observed on 3 May each year.
“It is a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. Whilst we stand in solidarity with colleagues the world over who are in jail and those facing prosecution, threats and harassment in doing their work: we in Sierra Leone continue to reflect on the conditions under which we practice,” the president of SLAJ said.
He said in Sierra Leone the continued presence and use of the Criminal Libel laws is a constant threat of the right to media freedom, which is a fundamental human rights. “Today two journalists will not be part of the symposium because they are due in court to answer charges under the Criminal Libel Laws.”
“Today SLAJ again reiterates its call to President Koroma, to make do his eight-year-old election promise, to repeal the Criminal Libel Laws. We continue to maintain that there are enough provisions in the Civil Laws to address any redress sought from those aggrieved by our work. If medical doctors are not charged with murder, and executed, for making mistakes on their theatre tables where lives are lost while practicing their profession, why should journalists be jailed for practicing their profession?” he asked.
The Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Mr. Connelius Devaux said the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law is a process and it is ongoing. He admitted that the process is going on but at snail pace.

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