June 10, 2015
The Independent Media Commission (IMC) has taken cognisance of the ruling of Justice Allan Halloway on the matter between the Commission and the Independent Observer Newspaper. The Commission understood from the ruling which was read by the learned Judge on Friday 5th June 2015 that:
- The Commission followed the correct procedures in dealing with the matter.
- The Commission did not violate the principles of natural justice in handling the matter.
- That the fines were “excessive” and they should be “reviewed.”
The Commission would like to state that it is yet to officially receive a written copy of the judgment through its lawyer.
As an initial reaction, the Commission particularly notes that the ruling neither stated that the procedures it used were wrong, nor stated that the publication was ethical; which is one of the major concerns of the Commission in doing its work.
On the issue of “reviewing” or “reducing” the fines, the Commission would come out with its position after studying the ruling on the matter.
It could be recalled that the Commission had fined the Independent Observer Newspaper a total of Le 16,500,000 (Sixteen Million, Five Hundred Thousand Leones) for an article published on the 6th February 2015 edition of the newspaper. The said publication breached several provisions: Accuracy principle, a fine of Le 1,000,000 (One Million Leones), Copyright, a fine of Le500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Leones), Privacy, a fine of Le5,000,000 (Five Million Leones), Indecency and Pornographic Materials, a fine Le5,000,000 (Five Million Leones) and publishing details of a person’s…individual lifestyle, or of any physical or mental disability unless these are directly relevant to the story, a fine of Le5,000,000 (Five Million Leones).
The Commission noted that the last three breaches have no stipulated fines in the Code of Practice, and therefore utilized provisions in both the IMC Act of 2000 as amended in 2007 (Section 36(3)) and the IMC Code of Practice of 2007 (principle 31, p. 17) in levying the fines. The provision states that “Where no penalty is prescribed by or under this Act for any complaints inquired into by the Commission, the Commission may censure or impose a fine not exceeding Le5,000,000 (Five Million Leones). Failure by the newspaper or magazine to pay the imposed fine shall lead to the suspension of the publication until the fine is paid.”
Finally the Commission is of the view that the fines imposed on the Newspaper are in conformity with the law.
Rev. Terrence Knox-Goba
EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, IMC
(For and on behalf of Chairman and Commissioners of IMC)