Jonathan Leigh v IMC:


IMC lawyer says ‘action was legal’

April 17, 2015 By Patrick J. Kamara & Hawa Amara

Lawyer representing the Independent Media Commission (IMC), A. Sunni, yesterday submitted at the High Court presided over by Justice Alan B. Halloway that the decision of the complaint committee of the commission to fine the plaintiff, Managing Editor of the Independent Observer, the sum of Le16 million was legal, thus urging the court to uphold it.

Counsel for the plaintiff, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, had made a submission the previous day that the court should quash the decision because it was “illegal, irregular and excessive in nature”, relying on section 29 of the IMC Act of 2009.

Leigh was fined in excess of Le16 million by the media regulatory body in February this year after a publication in his newspaper alleged that Sylvia Blyden had confessed to have had sex with Rev. Wilfred Kabs-Kanu three times. The individuals he mentioned in the article wrote to the IMC to complain, with the commission instituting a committee to investigate, thus the unprecedented fine which his lawyer says was “illegal and excessive”.

Abdulai had also posited that, “The complaint committee acted outside the excess of its jurisdiction as contained in section 36(2) of the IMC Act of 2000. I ask for a judicial review of the decision on the grounds [that] it fails to comply with the rules of natural justice”.

He further submitted that the complaint committee of the IMC had instructed the plaintiff to pay his fine within a week, although there was no provision in the IMC Act of 2000 which grants such mandate to the committee.

But the IMC lawyer maintained the fine was imposed on the applicant pursuant to Codes 6 and 26 of IMC Code of Practice which relate to privacy, indecency and pornography, respectively.

The female counsel contended that the submission of the plaintiff’s counsel that any breach of the IMC Code amounts to payment of a fine not exceeding Le500,000 was not enough to substantiate his application for the verdict to be quashed by the court.

“This fine should be punitive to serve as deterrent to the plaintiff, media practitioners and the public at large. The media needs to be regulated…the fine imposed is not excessive within the ambit of the law,” Sunni submitted.

She retorted that the issue of natural justice raised by her colleague counsel was not necessary as the investigation was not triggered by complaints from Sylvia Blyden or Reverend Kabs-Kanu, but the Research and Monitoring Committee of the IMC.

“So there was no need to call other complainants to be heard. It is the commission who had instructed the committee to investigate and arrived at that conclusion. Their function is not only to make recommendation as counsel on the other side had submitted,” the female barrister said.

Meanwhile, the judge adjourned indefinitely, although he said both sides would be served a notice.