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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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Judiciary prevents journalists from covering suspended Auditor-General’s tribunal proceedings

By Alfred Koroma

The Judiciary of Sierra Leone yesterday denied journalists from different media institutions entry to cover first day of the highly public interest tribunal proceedings of the suspended Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce and her Deputy, Tamba Momoh.

The Judiciary kept journalists outside the proceedings in the main Law Court Building until the end of the event, with only a selected few allowed covering the event.  

The public proceeding of the tribunal in which journalists were controversially barred from covering is inquiring into a case of professional misconduct against the Auditor General and her deputy,Tamba Momoh.

The tribunal has commenced public proceedings while the matter is already before the Supreme Court.

Like her unprecedented suspension, the tribunal proceeding of the Auditor-General appears to be again marred by controversy as the opacity of the first day of the proceeding was further accentuated by the Judiciary’s deliberate action to prevent journalists from covering the proceeding.

Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), in a press release condemned the act and called on the Judiciary to allow media access to the tribunal proceedings. “The tribunal should be opened to all media not just a selected few,” the press release reads.

In his flimsy excuse, the  Director of Communications of  the Sierra Leone Judiciary, Elkass Sannoh, told journalists that there was not enough space to accommodate all journalists that were present to cover the event, claiming that sits were already filled with junior lawyers. 

It is habitual for the Judiciary of Sierra Leone to barred journalist from covering controversial proceedings. This is the second time in less than four months that journalists have been barred from covering high public interest proceedings in Law Court. Recently in January this year, Journalists were also initially prevented from covering the corruption trial of Dr. Samura Kamnara and others.

The tribunal proceeding which commenced public hearing yesterday is looking into the professional activities of the Auditor- General after four months of her suspension.

The long-serving Auditor General was suspended for professional misconduct that is yet to be substantiated. Her unprecedented suspension which came pending the release of a hard-hitting Annual Audit Report against government’s handling of state resources was greeted with public backlash and wide condemnation from CSOs and other members of the public.

 Taylor-Pearce has denied any wrong doing, and has filed a Supreme Court action against the state amidst the inquiry against her. She filed the court action on the grounds that her suspension with the tribunal established to investigate her office was unconstitutional and beyond the legal authority of the President.

Her Supreme Court affidavit points out  that Hon Justice Nyawo  Matturi-Jones, Lahai Farmer ESQ,  Abu Bakarr King ESQ –  three of the members appointed to the  tribunal investigating her, lack the fundamental qualification to be  members of the Tribunal  established under the provisions of section 137 (5)(a) of the 1991 Constitution to investigate her.

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