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Le50 bail for defaming VP Sam Sumana on Whatsapp

NOVEMBER 24, 2014  By Hawa Amara

Vice President Sam Sumana
Vice President Sam Sumana

One Samuel Gandi was last Friday granted a Le50 million bail by Magistrate Komba Kamanda after he was arraigned for allegedly posting comments deemed defamatory and libellous against Vice President Samuel Sam Sumana.

In a case which is novel in our jurisdiction, the accused is alleged to have posted on a Whatsapp forum – Sierra News – on 16th November, 2014, comments branding the Vice President as “a fraudster and monster.”

He was arraigned on twelve counts of defamatory libel, contrary to section 27 of the Public Order Act of 1965; knowingly publishing false defamatory libel, contrary to section 26 of the same Act; and calling a person by description rather than his name, contrary to section 3(iv) of analogous Act.

According to Police Prosecutor Sergeant 922 I.G. Fofanah, the accused defamed the vice president by posting on the forum that he “woefully fails the O’level exams and came with a fake university degree from Babylon. I have first class honours degree from the University of Sierra Leone, FBC.”

The prosecutor continued that the accused on the same date also posted on the forum that, “I just can’t support a masked and fake politician like ur VP(sic).”

Also, the accused is alleged to have again posted that “A blessed man is been pulled around like toy. And he commences no respect within D he operates and his boss doubts his integrity. He is been flank by morons (short-sighted). A man with powerless power(sic),” in apparent reference to the vice president.

In addition, the prosecutor said the accused on 17th November, published on the Whatsapp forum that, “thuggery cannot make a president in the 21st century, VP has thug on the street in Kono (Adamu& co. ), thugs on the social media insulting people with impunity and how for goodness sake are u going to make the numbers.”

He is alleged to have further posted that, “He has spent 7yrs fighting everybody in his reach who dat alaki pass u bra.”

Lead defence counsel R.A. Nylender made a preliminary objection to the charges, which he said were unsupported by law.

According to him, the particulars of offence stated that the postings were made via social media (Whatsapp), “Therefore, I submit that there is no regulation on social media and that the provision of Public Order Act of 1965 does not cover Whatsapp.”

He said section 37(a)(b) of the Public Order Act of 1965 does not provide for relatively new media, such that postings on social media does not amount to defamatory libel. “I therefore urge that the accused be cautioned and discharged,” he submitted.

But the prosecutor asked for an adjournment to enable him reply to the defence submission.

She also objected to bail on the grounds that the offences are very serious, especially as they relate to the Vice- President.

She said witnesses and the accused are part of a Whatsapp group ‘Sierra News’ and that if granted bail the accused would interfere with those witnesses.

However, Magistrate Kamanda noted that because the defence has raised legal issues, the prosecution should seek legal advice to reply.

The matter was adjourned to 4th December for further hearing.

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