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Journalists in Sierra Leone detained without charge for six days

Police in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, have detained the managing editor and editor of the Independent Observer newspaper for six days without charge.

Managing editor Jonathan Leigh and his colleague, Bai Bai Sesay, were arrested on October 18, 2013 after being accused of publishing an article that the police considered defamatory to President Ernest Bai Koroma.

An MFWA source – who visited the two editors at the police station where they were held – said that both journalists complained of severe body pains and expressed worry about the fact that the police were unwilling to grant them bail, or adhere to the constitutional requirement of charging them before a court.

The continuous detention of the journalists violates provisions in the country's constitution specifically Chapter 3 17(3b) and international human rights treaties that Sierra Leone is a signatory to.

The detained journalists received a letter from President Koroma's lawyers on the day of their arrest to retract and apologise for the aforementioned publication. But before they could act on the letter, the police picked them up.

The secretary-general of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Moses Kargbo, condemned the manner in which the two were arrested. “The whole affair is clearly an agenda being pushed by the ruling All People's Congress Party, despite President Koroma's directive to his lawyers to demand a retraction and an apology from the editors”, he said.

We call on the leadership of the Sierra Leonean police to adhere to the country's constitution provisions by ensuring that the journalists are granted bail immediately or charged by the court.

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