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SDI urges police against instructions to muzzle free expression

May 24, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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The Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) has in it 2016 State of the Media report urged the Sierra Leone police to act responsibly and professionally and not act on the instructions from anyone to muzzle free expression.

Titled: “The Independence of Media Enhances Democracy and Good Governance: A call for the repeal of the Criminal and Seditious Libel laws in the 1965 Public Order Act, the report slammed the SLP for allowing itself to be use by politicians and seeming influential people or party stalwarts to arrest, detain and intimidate journalists and other members of the public.

According to the report, an arrest or invitation to avail oneself to the police should not necessarily lead to detention at the whims and caprices of a complainant or the powers-that-be.

It claimed that politicians and their cohorts were employing intimidating tactic, using the police to do their dirty work and that such move can have devastating impact of the democratic credentials of the country.

“The police should stop being the instrument of intimidation by politicians to silence the media or violate their fundamental rights to freedom of expression,” the report noted.

The report also urged the government to allow, encourage, protect and promote broader freedom of expression in the country as prescribed under international law and the jurisprudence of constitutional provisions.

SDI’s Executive Director, Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai stated in the Executive Summary that the recent and most common forms of crackdown effectively used against practicing journalists and media institutions include brutal police raids.

“Clear examples as illustrated in this report on media crackdowns are police officers acting on orders from above in arresting practicing journalists without respect for their human rights and without charges,” he said and added that this form of suppression may also compromise the media’s integrity.

The 2016 report records several crackdowns on practitioners and media institutions aimed at silencing free expression and also proffer recommendations to be implemented by the government and other institutions.  The first State of the Media report was launched in 2008.

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