A landmark action was taken on February 26 when the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in partnership with Society for Democratic Institute (SDI-SL) filed a deposition to challenge the constitutional validity of sections 26, 27and 32-37 of the Public Order Act No 46, 1965.
The action has been filed on behalf of SLAJ by Yada Williams and Associates of No. 7 Walpole Street in Freetown.
The action names the Attorney General and minister of Justice as first defendant and the minister of Information and Communication as second defendant.
SLAJ will be the plaintiff and affidavits have also been submitted from Philip Neville, Dr Julius Spencer and Richard Olu Gordon concerning their experiences as a result of the Public Order Act.
SLAJ and SDI-SL have continuously raised concerns about the manner in which the Public Order Act has been used by successive governments as a tool to muzzle journalists, thereby stifling freedom of expression, a freedom clearly protected under Article 25 of the Sierra Leone Constitution of 1991 as well as in a plethora of international treaties to which Sierra Leone is a signatory.
The joint press release from SLAJ and SDI-SL points out that in Sierra Leone the Public Order Act is archaic and no longer necessary in a democratic society.
They state that this action is not an attack on government but rather an attack on an outdated piece of legislation which Sierra Leone has inherited from its colonial past and which contravenes the very constitution upon which Sierra Leone is based.
By Mohamed Fofanah