Another journalist arrested on seditious libel in Sierra Leone
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is concerned over the arrest and detention of journalist Theophilus Gbenda on seditious libel charges on Tuesday 11th February 2014.
Theophilus had produced a program on Culture Radio where a studio guest made comments over a land case, which reportedly angered Vice President Sam Sumana. The Chairman and head of the Complaints Committee of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) had swiftly intervened and invited the journalist who was supposed to appear before the IMC complaints committee at 4pm Tuesday 11th February 2014.
On the same day the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Sierra Leone Police summoned journalist Theophilus Gbenda to report at 2pm to answer charges of seditious libel. A statement was obtained from him and he was subsequently detained without bail on allegations in a report made to the CID by an aide to the Vice President, one Donald Eleady-Cole who is not a state functionary and who allegedly claimed he was also libeled in the radio program.
SLAJ is concerned that seditious libel charges are preferred against a journalist by an ordinary individual on accusation of his being libeled against, when he is not even a government employee and more so when the Oxford Dictionary describes sedition as “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch” and not against an individual.
SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis says “Such interpretations of the law by Police raises serious questions about administration of the rule of law and their democratic credentials.”
Conscious of the fact that the Vice President is head of the police council SLAJ is concerned that this case does not become another of the numerous cases against journalists attributed to “orders from above.”
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