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Sierra Leone

    October 29, 2013

    The Sierra Leone parliament’s passage of a freedom of information law is a major step to ensure greater government transparency, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Sierra Leone’s Freedom of Information Coalition said today. The new legislation, enacted today, is crucial for effective, transparent, and accountable governance.

    The Right to Access Information Act establishes a right to access government information and requires all parts of government to adopt and widely disseminate a plan for making records publicly available. The legislation also imposes a penalty for willful obstruction of its provisions.

    The law was first proposed in 2003 but has languished in Sierra Leone’s parliament since 2010. President Ernest Bai Koroma must now sign the act for it to enter into force.

    October 24, 2013

    The Sierra Leonean authorities must drop all charges against editors for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    On Wednesday, Jonathan Leigh and Bai Bai Sesay, both editors at the Independent Observer newspaper, were charged with criminal defamation for publishing an article critical of the Sierra Leonean President, Ernest Bai Koroma. They have already been in detention for six days and have been denied bail pending the resumption of their trial on 29 October.

    “Criminal defamation charges against media workers highlight the incredibly worrying climate for freedom of expression in the West African country,” said Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Sierra Leone.

    “All charges must be dropped and these two men released immediately and unconditionally. Their detention and criminal charges appear to stem from them peacefully carrying out journalistic work.

    “The Sierra Leonean authorities must respect the right to freedom of expression. Legitimate criticism of public officials should never be grounds for curtailing free speech.”

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