Members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) have declared a one-week news blackout on the judiciary effective today (15 June 2009).
This means that no newspaper, radio to TV station in the country should carry any report on the activities of any court or related body in the country.
This is in reaction to the failure by the Supreme Court to deliver a verdict in the association’s case for repeal of the criminal and seditious libel law, an action SLAJ deems as ultra vires to the country’s 1991 constitution.
At an Emergency General meeting last Saturday, journalists expressed dismay at the Supreme Court’s inaction in the case, which was taken to the court in February 2008 and was only sat upon in February 2009. Despite the Constitutional provision that a verdict be passed not later than three months after the closing arguments, the court did not do so at the deadline of 9 June.
The journalists see the action of the Supreme Court as “a denial of justice” to the association which might have the tendency to be repeated against other individuals or associations. The meeting also called for an engagement of President Ernest Bai Koroma to repeal the law something he promised to do during his campaign.
Journalists also resolved to constructively engage society groups, human rights organisations and the international community, among others ratchet up the pressure against the existence of the seditious libel law which, the association believes, inhibits free speech.
SLAJ meets again on Saturday 20 June to review its strategies and adopt further protest actions if nothing productive happens.