SLAJ condemns arrest of Independent Observer Editor
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is appalled by the arrest, by the police, of journalist Jonathan Leigh, Editor of the Independent Observer newspaper, over an alleged publication of reported violent incidents in Kono following campaigns by the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) and the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in the build-up to the Saturday December 19, 2015 by-election in Constituency 25 in Kono.
Mr. Leigh was picked up in his office in the evening of Thursday 17 December by three officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), who told the journalist that they were acting on “orders” to arrest him regarding his front page publication of that day. The investigating officers said the journalist was being interrogated for “false publication”; he was subsequently detained after statement had been obtained from him.
SLAJ is concerned that there seems to exist a consistent pattern by the police to arrest journalists for their publications instead of allowing the body established by law to regulate the media – the Independent Media Commission (IMC) – to handle such matters. We view Mr. Leigh’s arrest as a clear case of political harassment and intimidation and therefore call for his immediate release.
SLAJ notes with obvious disapproval the continued use of the criminal libel laws against journalists, and reiterates its call to President Koroma to make do on his 8 year-old – 2007 pre-election promise to repeal the Criminal and Seditious Libel laws contained in the 1965 Public Order Act.
“Political harassment of journalists will not change or hide the truth,” said SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis.
SLAJ further demands that this matter is referred to the IMC, and for the police to desist from the habit of arresting journalists, especially on matters which the IMC has the competence to handle.
Long live SLAJ, Long live Journalism, Long live Sierra Leone!
Moses A. Kargbo
National Secretary General