Counsel: ‘No law prevent reporting on national issues’


November 25, 2015 By Patrick J. Kamara

Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, representing Dr. David Tam Baryoh in a civil litigation filed by the latter against the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Tuesday submitted in court that his client’s ‘Monologue’ programme was illegally closed because there is no provision in the media code of practice that outlaws reporting on important and pressing national issues.

Abdulai was making submission at the Freetown High Court, before Hon. Justice Musu D. Kamara.

Dr. Baryoh had filed a motion in the High Court after his ‘monologue’ programe was indefinitely closed down by the media regulating body this year.

He argued that the code of practice requires that every material published should be accurate, noting that in a situation where it touches on the right or reputation of another person, a fair opportunity must be given to the person to reply or dispute the inaccuracy.

He said his client discussed two important national issues relating to the killing of innocent Sierra Leoneans by the Sierra Leone police in the last two years and the issue of the disputed quantity of buses the government of Sierra Leone bought from China.

Abdulai added that the relevant State institutions were given fair opportunity to respond to the allegations.

He availed to the court a supplementary affidavit to support his submission as ordered by the court at the previous sitting.

The legal luminary informed the court that exhibit ESA 1 is a letter dated 25th August, 2015 from the respondent (IMC) to the applicant (Monologue) informing the latter about the suspension slammed on them.

He said exhibit ESA 2 is a transcript copy of the recorded programme of ‘Monologue’ on 1 August, 2015 while exhibit ESA 3 is another transcript copy of a programme aired on 8 August 2015 on which the Deputy Minister of Political Affairs, Karamoh Kabba, was interviewed.

 “However, the respondent failed to state these several complaints in a letter communicating the suspension of the applicant’s programme. A single complaint as alleged by the IMC was not stated in the letter addressed to the applicant,” said the counsel.

Apart from complaints from Minster of Transport and Aviation, Leonard Balagun Koroma and the Inspector General of Police, Francis Alieu Munu, the private legal practitioner maintained that his client submitted a robust defense before the complaint committee of the IMC, adding that the several complains alleged by the IMC should have been brought to the attention of his client during that period.

He argued that protecting the interest of the public is not an offence created by the media code of conduct and that the IMC Act of 2000 and its amendment in 2006 and 2007 do not recommend suspension of a media organisation

Abdulai also referred the judge to pages 12, 13 and 14 of the IMC Code of Practice, paragraphs 1-27, which clearly state do’s and don’t’s by the media.

Francis Gabbidon, lawyer for the IMC, said his colleague on the other side sounded like he was testifying rather than submitting. They two lawyers engaged in a heated argument before the intervened and adjourned the matter to 9 December to rule on the objection earlier raised by another defense lawyer, B. Koroma