Christian Lawyers Centre hereinafter referred to as LEGAL LINK is appalled and outraged by the frivolous, malicious and vexatious prosecution of BLACKA, a mentally – illed patient, by the police giving cause for him to be remanded at Pa Demba Road prison at least for one day.
According to LEGAL LINK “It could be recalled that Mohamed Mansaray ( alias Blacka) together with one business woman Kadiatu Yankaday were both charged with one count of Public insult and provocation contrary to section 2 of the Public Order Act of 1965.
Arraigned before Magistrate Rashid Jalloh of Magistrate court No 4 Holden at Pa Demba Road Freetown, the police alleged in their Particulars of Offence, that on diverse dates between January 1 and April 23, 2022, in the presence of Mohamed Fofanah, the accused persons made insulting remarks against President Julius Maada Bio with intent to provoke him to commit a breach of the peace.
Both accused pleaded not guilty to the offence. Lead Defence lawyer for Blacka, C Pujeh Esq made an application for bail for him on the grounds of him being a mental health patient. But notwithstanding this however, the Magistrate refused the application for bail for both accused persons and sent them on remand at the Pa Demba Road prison, adjourning the matter to the 4th of May 2022.
Following the outcry on social media over this travesty, the case was hurriedly called up the following day with bail granted to Blacka ( mental health patient) and the other accused person charged along with him respectively by the Magistrate.
As an organization that defends the rights of vulnerable groups in Sierra Leone, we take the greatest exception to this inhumane and barbaric act meted out against Blacka, a mental health patient by the state and vehemently condemn its continuation in fundamental terms.
But whatever was the underlying motive and consideration behind this unprecedented move to prosecute a mental health patient by the state, it is vital to note that such cruel act on a vulnerable persons like BLACKA, has just succeeded in unleashing the highest level of embarrassment to our nation’s human rights credentials at the International level.
At a time when the issue of mental health rights has taken the centre stage within the United Nations and other regional integration frameworks, it is suicidal to say the least for such stories of torture and victimisation to be happening against mentally – illed patients in the country.
Apparently, it has been widely rumoured that the the illegal detention and malicious prosecution meted against BLACKA leading to his remand, may not have been unconnected with his earlier cynical statements and audios made against His excellency, the president of Sierra Leone and his government.
But whatever the speculations might be, one thing that is certain however is the fact that, the story of BLACKA has revealed beyound imagination the extent to which our society has degenerated into savagery and beasthood, not sparing even the mentally retarded from punishment for their unconscious involvement in the politics of the day.This is a sad and worrying state of affairs indeed.
But looking beyond the BLACKA incident, a legitimate question that comes to mind is: are their adequate, effective and robust laws, policies and institutions in Sierra Leone to protect the rights and welfare of mentally – illed patients like BLACKA? The answer is certainly a big NO.
While a colonial Lunacy Act does exists, it is quite clear that such statute does not adequately address the needs of mental health patients in the country.
The few institutions also established to take care of mental health patients are largely under- supported and constrained in terms of expertise to deal with the special needs of these patients.
In the locus classicus case of PUROHIT VS THE GAMBIA, a matter that was decided by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights concerning the
inhumane treatment of mental health patients in the Gambia, the African Commission ruled that “the Gambian government has violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights by her refusal and failure to have effective laws, policies and institutions in place to protect the rights and welfare of mentally – illed patients in the country.”
The significance of the above case at the African Continent has revealed that states in Africa including Sierra Leone are under a duty to ensure that the rights and welfare of mentally retarded persons are adequately addressed either through legislations and or care institutions and not neglected at will.
Unfortunately in Sierra Leone, apart from the acute absence of legislations that comprehensively protect the rights of mentally- illed patients in the country, there are still a large number of mental health victims roaming about the streets of Freetown aimlessly, unattended to and uncared for.
Mental health legislation, policies and institutions are necessary for protecting the rights of people with mental disorders who are amongst the most vulnerable section of society. Apart from the threats to their life, they face stigma, discrimination and marginalization all the time and this increases the likelihood for their human rights to be violated.
Mental health legislation is therefore needed in Sierra Leone so as to provide a legal framework for addressing critical issues such as community integration of persons with mental disorders, the provision of medical care of high quality, the improvement of access to care services, the protection of civil rights and the promotion of rights in other critical areas such as housing, education and employment.
While we wholeheartedly condemn any attempt by anyone to show disrespect in whatever form to the office of the president, it should however be noted that in this exceptional situation, Blacka was merely a victim that was being exploited by wicked and unreasonable people for selfish gains.
If the police were to take any drastic action, such should have been done against these people for aiding and abetting the commissioning of the crime.
It is certainly not Blacka that usually video himself when such uncomely words are being said by him. People do the video recording as well as the sharing which clearly constitutes an Offence under the Cyber Crime and Security Act of Sierra Leone. The police must therefore ensure to go after them and treat Blacka as a mere victim and a mental health patient that needs help.
In conclusion, given all the injustices that have been meted out against Blacka, a mental health patient in this entire saga, as a legal advocacy group that defends the rights of vulnerable persons in Sierra Leone, we make the following recommendations for the urgent attention of all and sundry:
1) That the Sierra Leone Police offers no further evidence against Blacka in the pending criminal case before the Magistrate court which is yet to be discharged;
2) That Magistrate Rashid Jalloh formally acquits and discharge Blacka of the offence (s) charged against him;
3) That LEGAL LINK unequivocally and unreservedly condemn the exploitation of BLACKA, a mentally- illed patient by all sides of the political divided and urged that BLACKA be seen as a victim deserving of help rather than a stooge to be used and exploited at will by selfish politicians.
4) That the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Health provides the highest attainable standard of medical treatment and health care to BLACKA including confinement and rehabilitation as he goes through this perilous time of his life.
5) That adequate compensation be provided to Blacka by the Sierra Leone Police over his illegal detention as required under section 17(4) of the 1991 constitution of Sierra Leone.
6) Lastly, that we urge the Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone to repeal and replace the colonial Lunacy Act through the passing of a more robust legislation that will specifically and effectively protect the rights of mental health patients in the country.
It is only by taking the above interim measures that the effects of the BLACKA situation can be mitigated before the International community. And any omission by the state will be deemed as a clear violation of the human rights of not only BLACKA but all mentally –illed patients in the country”.
Where is Emerson Amidu Bockarie?
In Sierra Leone, plenty people can recall how Emerson Bockarie Political songs had gained momentum and added value in the Country’s Development.
Emerson Bockarie started his musical career over a decade and most of his songs were focused mainly on corruption and mismanagement of the Country’s resources by government officials especially the ruling Government.
In Africa, musicians who always sing against political leaders/Govt. faces several challenges such a harassment and intimidation by some Government officials who may want to personalize.
But over the years, this artist passively ignored all the harassment intimidation and criticism and forged ahead with his career without any divided mind.
But what question the general populist of hearted sierra Leoneans may what want to ask is: whether Emmerson Bockarie has missing in action?
It is almost a year and the people of Sierra Leone are waiting for what songs he may come out with.
Over the years different reports has been published including the Audit report that pointed out massive corruption since the Sierra Leone Peoples party government came in to power in 2018.
Mr Bockarie had produced several albums of songs that oppose every Government that comes in power to rule Sierra Leone.
This has led to thousands of Sierra Leoneans to always rely on what idea he may compose to feed the people and always sensitize them on what is happening in the country. Mostly the lay man can’t understand except through Mr Bockarie’s song.
Mr Bockarie started his musical career at the time he was a student at Njala University and one of his first song is (U GO SI Am) meaning “You will see it” and his second album was Borbor Bele and was the best-selling album in Sierra Leone’s music recording history.
An unsuccessful attempt was made to ban the title track, ’Borbor Bele’ from the airwaves in Sierra Leone because it depicts “a corrupt politician, civil servant or non-governmental organization employees.
Many younger Sierra Leoneans believed that Emerson write and sing intelligent songs that has to do with corruption both formal and non-formal in Sierra Leone.
Obviously, it sets him apart from all other Sierra Leonean musicians as the people’s favorite.
Emmerson’s new Tu Fut Arata has now replaced Borbor Bele as another best-selling album ever in Sierra Leone by a Sierra Leonean.
PUBLIC REVIEW ARTICLE
Journalistic Objectivity, Actuality and Reality
By: Sheku Putka Kamara
Sierra Leone’s Justice Dr., Binneh Kamara is on record to have said that ‘there is no place for falsehood in journalism.’ In fact, he has even joked on countless occasions that anyone who attempts to write the above and quote him for example would get some free 5 Marks. Colleagues that have studied or are still studying Mass Communication at Fourah Bay College may have some understanding about this. So, like he’d almost always say again, ‘let me forge ahead.’
I approach this topic from the standpoint of not just a journalist, but as an educator that has practiced and is still practicing the craft, profession and or trade; depending on the position one chooses to hold up to light. There have been endless theories on what journalism is all about and what is expected of journalists. Three journalistic models that have stood out have to do with the watchdog, attack dog and lapdog functions of the press and newsmen. Sierra Leone’s case is clearer on what journalists are expected to do. One of such expectations is that newsmen have a duty to self and to society by ensuring that accountability and transparency take center stage, but could this be the case for Sierra Leone’s under resourced media profession? I will argue that as a people, we still have some catching up to do. Our country has lived and is still living in times where a good number of media entities and establishments are owned by politicians, business entities, corporate organizations etc. With this in mind, one may be left to assume that these entities cannot afford to go against their pay masters for ‘you cannot bite the finger that feeds you, you cannot urinate against the wind.’
That is why editorial independence is very essential. Tsedu, has noted that the absence of editorial independence negates the platform on which journalism is based. What could this platform be? Ken, did state that the duty of journalists is to get the facts right and that the golden rule of journalism is to allow the people and facts to speak for themselves. Whiles this happens sometimes, it is but fitting to assert that it does not happen all the time.
Ideally, media theories have it that journalism has to work by the notion of ABCs. That is to say, at all times, newsmen are expected to accurate, have a balanced perspective and that they should be clear about matters. The challenge in matching the demands of this assumption is that and like Lance did argue, the value inherent in political events is one of the obstacles to objectivity. He also noted that the rush to meet unreasonably short deadlines and the deception of newsmakers could be other challenges. Maybe it is necessary to agree with the learned scholar in many respects.
For Sierra Leone’s case, majority of our countrymen either sympathize with the APC, SLPP, NGC or PMDC and the other ‘minor parties’ now have their own share of the cake too. In such circumstances, it is hard for newsmen to stand out and uphold the actual principles of journalistic professionalism. No wonder, we always have some sensational headlines in some publications, and yes, some broadcasters already have their positions even before the agenda is set. So, we still have a long way to go.
In the 2016 Sierra Leone’s State of the Media Report, Isaac Massaquoi takes on the controversial concept of “objectivity” and argues that the professional world of journalism should ‘ditch’ the concept to save the profession. For Isaac, ‘the concept of objectivity has remained one of the great confusions of journalism since it appeared in journalistic discourse in the first half of the nineteenth century. In fact, in modern times the meaning of the word in theory and practice is lost. When the concept originally evolved, it was not meant to imply that journalists were free of bias. It emerged in the 1920s out of a growing recognition that journalists were full of bias, often unconsciously.
To deal with that objectivity required journalists to develop a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2001p, 73).’ According to Tuchman (1972) to Journalists, like social scientists, the term ‘objectivity’ stands as a bulwark between themselves and their critics whenever they are attacked for a controversial presentation of ‘facts’, journalists defensively use objectivity as a ‘strategic ritual’ to protect themselves from their critics. Dr. Massaquoi noted that ‘the idea of maintaining objectivity even as a so called strategic ritual is coming under serious threat from many sides – from a significant body of practitioners who find the insistence on journalism being slavishly loyal to the dictates of the prescriptions contained in media.’
Professor Ritchard M’Bayo did make a case that ‘the new media, the Internet and, most significantly, Social Media, have not only expanded the public space and public discourse, they are redefining journalistic practice and introducing new players – citizen journalists, bloggers, fake journalism, fake news, etc. He added that members of the public are mobilizing around issues and affected interests in ways that we have never experienced before. A rich array of alternative voices is now part of the mosaic of public discourse. In Sierra Leone, and anyone with access to a computer/laptop or smart phone is potentially a journalist. There is excitement and personal gratification in the brave new world of communication! To be able to add one’s voice to the plethora of voices in the market place of political communication gives some people a personal sense of gratification, but a false sense of empowerment.’ The itinerant Prof. concluded that the mainstream media should begin to endeavor to regain credibility in the eyes of the public by being mindful of the role of journalism in contemporary democratic societies 4, as outlined by Christians, et al: (1) the Monitorial or Watchdog function – collecting, processing, and disseminating genuine and factual information, (2) Facilitative Role – contributing toward improving the quality of life for all and promoting deliberative forms of democracy, (3) Radical Role, focusing on exposing abuses of power and corruption and aiming to raise public consciousness of wrongdoing, inequality, and the potential for change, and (4) Collaborative Role, collaboration between media and state under unusual circumstances of crisis or emergency, or threats to the society from external or internal sources. In rounding up, maybe this debate would be unending, but one thing that newsmen may need is critical thinking.
Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.
Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.
Critical thinkers will identify, analyze and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct. Someone with critical thinking skills can: Understand the links between ideas.
Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas. Recognize, build and appraise arguments. Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning. Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way. Reflect on the justification of assumptions, beliefs and values.
Critical thinking is thinking about things in certain ways so as to arrive at the best possible solution in the circumstances that the thinker is aware of. In more everyday language, it is a way of thinking about whatever is presently occupying your mind so that you come to the best possible conclusion.
So, let me end by noting that we may not always be right, but we should be mindful that our duty is to get the facts right. As journalists, let us strive to put away our emotions and report the news as it is and not to please paymasters.