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Editors released after 19 days of detention in Sierra Leone

After 19 days of prison detention, Managing Editor and Editor of the Independent Observer newspaper, Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay were granted bail on November 4, 2013 by a Freetown-based High Court.

The granting of bail to the journalists followed a series of joint protests and appeals by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and the Sierra Leone Journalists Association (SLAJ) that the two be granted bail and their rights respected.

The two journalists were admitted to bail bonds valued at 500 million Leones (about US$114,000) each. As part of the bail conditions, they were also required to have two sureties, one of whom must own a house in the upper class suburb called the Western Area. Additionally, the house owner must also deposit the property title with the Registrar of the court. The two journalists have also been asked to surrender their travelling documents to the authorities.

Both Leigh and Sesay were arrested on October 18 for publishing an article deemed defamatory to Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma and detained for 6 days without charge. Following protests from rights groups including the MFWA and SLAJ, the two editors were subsequently charged with 26 counts of seditious and defamatory libel. They were taken to court on October 23 and October 29. On both occasions, their requests for bail was turned down by the court. They are to reappear in court on November 18.

The MFWA commends SLAJ for their efforts in contributing towards the release of the two journalists. While we are pleased with the release of the journalists, we appeal to the Sierra Leonean authorities to drop the charges against the journalists.

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