Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, counsel for Dr. David Tam Baryoh, presenter of the suspended ‘Monologue’ radio programme, yesterday submitted that the decision taken by chairman of the Independent Media Commission to suspend the radio programme was ‘incorrect, illegal and lacked legitimacy’.
Mr. Abdulai was replying to an earlier submission by lawyer U. Koroma, who represents the IMC chairperson in the matter presided over by Justice Musu Kamara at the Freetown High Court.
He urged that the court should dismiss some of the allegations made by counsel of the Commission during his submission, adding that the latter had stated in his address that Karamoh Kabba, erstwhile Deputy Minister of Public and Political Affairs, was the wrong person to have been interviewed by Dr. Tam Baryoh, thus referring the court to the transcript of the tendered audio recording.
He noted that in the audio, it was explained by the complainant that as soon as news broke out about the quality of the 100 buses government had procured from China, he (plaintiff) telephoned the Minister of Transport and Aviation requesting an interview and that he referred him to one Mr. Bakarr, who was the Public Relations Officer at the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority.
He said according to the audio recording, the PRO spoke on behalf of his organisation before the Deputy Minister of Public and Political Affairs was interviewed.
He submitted that the cardinal principle of journalism is the right to reply and that when there was a touching issue, the minister and the government were given sufficient time to reply on the radio.
He said the IMC had no moral grounds to have slammed a suspension on the radio programme base on opinion, adding that the commission acted outside of its powers conferred on it by the IMC Act.
He said there was no law in the Act that empowers the commission to slam punishment on a radio station without first notifying them, adding that the action of the IMC chairperson fell outside of the provisions of the IMC Act regarding professionalism.
He said his client appeared before the Complaint Committee of the IMC and that they were waiting for the findings of the committee when the chairperson took upon himself to suspend the radio programme.
He further referred the court to section 21(2) of the IMC Act of 2000, which provides that before the IMC could suspend a media house, they need to inform the defaulter specifying the condition and demand rectification.
He said two letters were sent to the complainant – one from the Minister of Transport while another came from the Inspector General of Police dated 19 August, 2015 and 25 August, 2015 respectively.
He said a letter of suspension was subsequently sent to his client without any notice about any breach of section 21(2) and (3) of the IMC Act of 2000.
He submitted that because the respondent failed to comply with relevant section of the Act, his action was ‘incorrect, illegal and lacked legitimacy’.
He said in the letter of suspension, the respondent stated that the reason for the suspension was because the complainant had several times been complained to the IMC, but submitted that there was no evidence in court that the complainant had received two or more notices that he had violated any provision of the media code of practice.