• July 27, 2023

IGP Strays Police-Media Relations …the battle line is drawn

IGP Strays Police-Media Relations …the battle line is drawn
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By Abu Bakarr Kargbo

 

President Bio …the Media awaits your action

The decision of the current Inspector General of Police, William Fayia Sellu, to seek legal redress against the popular Radio Democracy and one of its Senior Producers, is a move that has been vehemently condemned by some right-thinking police officers and journalists who described the action as not only unfortunate but has the tendency of straying the existing good relationship between the police force and media practitioners.

The decision of the IGP to seek legal redress against a radio station that has been promoting policing activities is been described as a move to derail the good relationship President Julius Maada Bio has built with the media over the years. It could be recalled that President Bio was widely celebrated when on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, he publicly signed the amended law, effectively repealing the 55-year-old seditious libel section of the Public Order Act 1965 that criminalized free speech and stifled journalism in the West African nation. Experience from around the world shows that independent media encourages greater investment, from home and overseas, as it gives investors access to accurate data and information. It also allows greater participation by the people in political and economic debates, which can inform and influence policymaking.

It could be recalled on 23rd May 2023, Radio Democracy in its popular “Gud Morning Salone Program,” reported that the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police, William Fayia Sellu was intimidating and using his power to take advantage of poor people at Lebbie Village, Sussex, Freetown. It went further, according to the broadcast, to state that William Fayia Sellu used OSD personnel to harass and intimidate community people for land at Lebbie Village Sussex in Freetown. The report added that “William Fayia Sellu the Inspector General of the Sierra Leone Police ordered OSD personnel to arrest and detain a certain Samuel Mathew Kargbo.” The said report did not go down well with the IGP, who reported the matter to the Independent Media Commission (IMC). While the Complaint Committee of the Commission was looking into the issue, the IGP sought legal redress at the High Court.

Court of Appeal Judge presiding over cases at the General Civil Division of the High Court, Hon. Justice Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens in a default judgment delivered, ordered Radio Democracy FM 98.1 and one of its staff, to retract and tender a profuse apology to the Inspector General of Police, William Fayia Sellu, for slanderous and defamatory broadcast on 23rd day of May 2023.

“While we condemn irresponsible journalism, I think this action by the Inspector General of Police undermines the relationship we have tried to build since our signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Police Force. This is an issue we should have resolved in the spirit of that relationship,” says the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahamed Sahid Nasralla. Other journalists who commended a High Court default judgment delivered by Justice Alhaji Momoh-Jah Stevens against Radio Democracy, which favored the Inspector General of Police said the IG should have considered the apologies made by the Radio Station. The Board Chairman of Radio Democracy, Dr. Julius Spencer said “As Chair of the Board, I spoke with the IG myself and apologized to him. I told him that the offending reporter was going to face disciplinary action. I went on air and made a public apology. Our Lawyer was in discussions with his lawyer. So I am at a loss as to why the matter went forward.”

A police officer remarked that the decision of the IGP is a grave mistake. “This will hunt him and our Police Force because the radio station that has been promoting our activities and other like-minded journalists will be hunting us, looking for the negatives of the SLP,” he said.

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