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Sierra Leone News: As Sam Lahai released on Bail…SLAJ calls for urgent repeal of Criminal Libel Law

SLAJ

SLAJ President far right

In A press release dated 25th July 2016 the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) strongly condemned the detention of journalist Sam Lahai by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on allegations of defamation from the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Rtd Major Sengu Koroma.
Lahai, a Kenema based journalist and Assistant Secretary General of SLAJ East, travelled to Freetown on Friday 22nd July and reported at the CID to answer to the allegations.
He was denied bail and detained and had to spend two nights in detention at the CID.
The release states “it is unacceptable that even as the justice sector is undergoing salient reforms the CID continues to detain accused journalists, (and critical citizens) especially on Fridays through the weekend, without investigation”.
Further in the release it is stated that “SLAJ also vehemently denounce the action of the deputy minister for merely being questioned relating to his work as a public official. The journalist wanted to know how Mr. Sengu Koroma’s work as Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs relates to the running of the Kenema District Council to the extent of summoning the Kenema City Council’s Chief Administrator and the Procurement Officer to his HOUSE, and threatening them with police arrest if they fail to obey”.
The release went on “this is a blatant display of abuse of public office and of defamation laws as contained in the Public Order Act of 1965. We find it incomprehensible that politicians continue to conspire with the police to hide behind defamation laws, denying the public the right to critically hold them to account. Their intention, we have come to realize, is not to rightly defend alleged infringement on their reputations but to just lock up journalists and ‘teach them a lesson’. This is one of the many reasons SLAJ, together with other stakeholders, is advocating for the repeal of Seditious and Criminal libel laws.
The release noted that SLAJ will continue to demand that the deputy minister answers to public scrutiny “and we will not stop until he accounts for his action.”
The Journalist was released on bail by CID,  on the early hours of Monday 25th June with a bail bond which was “strangely set at Le 20 million” and he was released to the President of SLAJ, Kelvin Lewis, Public Affairs Secretary- Princess Gibson, and legal team comprising Joseph Egbenda Kapuwa Esq and Musa Mewa Esq.
According to lawyers, the bail bond is ridiculous as the maximum fine for the (alleged) offence on conviction is Le1 million.
Tuesday July 26, 2016

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