Allan Halloway is one of the independent minded judges this country can proud of giving his background as a lawyer of outstanding repute and very versatile media law lecturer at Fourah Bay College University of Sierra Leone.
I think he knows much about the laws that governs the media even at University those who passed through him can attest to the fact that he is highly legal minded and never awarded unmerited marks he can instead motivate you to take your work serious. I knew he was the right judge to handle such matter.
Contrary to an alleged corruption case levied against him by Abdul Tejan-Cole led ACC, he was never found wanting because of lack of substantial justification. Every right thinking member of society knew it was a premeditated ploy by some ill motivated people to drag his hard earned reputation into a mud.
His recent verdict in the case between the Independent Media Commission IMC and the Independent Observer Newspaper could be likened to that of the 1965 Case study between Lamin . R Taqi and Albert Margai . That matter was presided over by Justice Macus Jones in which the State brought a case against defendant ‘Taqi’ for publishing the disdain of the people whom he reported were calling for early elections much to the displeasure the Prime Minister of Sierra Leone.
After looking at the merits and demerits of the matter the fearless justice Jones discharged and acquitted the matter on the grounds of public interest. He submitted that the article could not be misconstrued narrowly pointing out that even though the article was tainted but the crop of the matter was the Journalist registered the disdain of the people who called for early elections which constituted public interest.
The verdict delivered by the learned judge could not be misconstrued narrowly giving the procedural and legal dimensions the matter took which span from IMC decision or recommendation to levied such a draconian fine against a newspaper that makes little or no profit in its quest to champion the course of the voiceless masses. Such draconian fine even undermines the freedom of information Act of Sierra Leone.
IMC was established on the advised of my tutor John Ryan the then Director of press division at the Cardiff University and tutor at the Thomson Foundation during one of his visit on the invitation of the British Council to capacitate Journalists .
During his lecture we the media students were very much curious as to how to practice independently without fear or intimidation giving the appalling relationship between the then Government and the Media. He systematically explained that after talking to both media practitioners and some politicians he discovered that some journalist were actually frustrated over the high handed measure preferred against them during the course of practice. He cited the official secret Act which restrict journalists from accessing certain kind of information of public interest and the 1965 public order act which criminalizes defamatory and seditious libel laws.
He said some politicians said they have done their best to make laws that will regulate the press but journalists were not cooperating with them.
On this note, he brought in Tony Gerathy a co-tutor from Thomson Foundation to further examine the issue on floor after serious examination and deliberations both concluded that the media should not be regulated by outsiders but by Journalist themselves.
Tony however observed that in Britain there is a Press Council that helps to regulate and protect the media from the powers that be on the one hand while on the other hand the Press Council helps protect the citizens from unwanted attack from the media.
During the certification ceremony, the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting Dr. Julius Spencer was invited where the establishment of a regulatory body initiative was shared with him and he promised to practicalize it. It was out of this initiative the IMC was born.
I want it to be known that IMC is neither a politically motivated trap for critical Journalists nor a profit making entity for bankrupt and retired guys , it should be seen working hand in glove with SLAJ to put programmes in place to improve on journalism through refreshers training . It should also be working towards the amendment of those draconian clauses in our law books and not to render the press economically handicap to pave a way for one party authoritarian state.
IMC should strive very hard to be like a pendulum that is in between the media and the powers that be and between the media and the people so as to enhance a peacefully or amicably coexistence to avoid any action that would ignite deep hatred or grievance for one another.
Ambassador Alieu Kanu you are supposed to be a role model considering your age and experience at both national and international services, one would expect you to use your skills acquire over the years to capacitate the media and also improve on their relationship with the state actors in order to project the good image of the country at the same time to unearth the excesses in governance vi-sa-vis corruption and mismanagement.
If you think you can use high handed measures to shape the media as perceived by a handful of ignorant public you will be doing disservice to the voiceless masses and our fragile democracy whose basic tenets include press freedom.
This means the media whether good or bad should exist to hold government accountable to the people as rightly stipulated by section 11 of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.
Except you want to kill democracy but the media must exist to provide check and balances on the other organs of government to minimize their excesses.
Afterwards the media played a cardinal role in the anti colonial struggle of Sierra Leone; you retrospect on the media history and see for yourself how the likes of I.T.A Wallace Johnson and others amidst huge challenges withstood the deadly colonial administration to earn us the tasteless independence we now enjoy.
Also go down memory lane to see the role Journalists played during the more than decade long rebel war to bring permanent peace to this land.
In fact during the interregnum while most of you guys were in safe haven in Guinea and elsewhere in the world Journalists were held between the deep blue sea and the devil in the process some fine Journalists were beheaded by RUF/AFRC Rebels.
I salute your lordship Justice Allan Hallowell for been impartial in delivering sound ruling and to the whole judiciary justice Hallowell’s verdict is worth emulating especially in rebranding the image of your office.