Letter to editor

Free Philip Neville

7 July 2007 at 11:07 | 1056 views

By Alpha Lebbie, Boston, USA.

Something, definitely continues to impress me about Babylonian politics,i.e., Western politics. And what is it that impresses me? The right to freedom of speech, be it in writing or by the spoken word. This is enshrined in the U.S.A. constitution by virtue of the 14th amendment to the constitution written in 1787.

In the U.K. it is enshrined in the Magna Carta. Of note is the basic fact that these rights got to be enshrined in these western constitutions due to the ordinary man’s fight to right the abuse of dictatorship by either President or Queen/King. It couldn’t have been an easy battle, because he who possesses political power, especially the power to let a man live or die, cannot easily relinquish that power to the will of the powerless( the voter).

And what continues to nauseate me about African politics is the absolute refusal of so-called democratic leaders all over the continent to grant the FREEDOM OF SPEECH like in all true democracies.

The right to say or write what one wants shouldn’t preclude journalists from being prosecuted in the courts of Law should they write anything false.

This brings mme to the question of the arrest of renowned journalist, Philip Neville in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Like most people would have known by now, Mr. Neville was arrested and detained in Sierra Leone after reporting verbatim what Libya’s Colonel Ghadaffi has said to the people of Freetown on his most recent visit; viz ,enumerating what he has given as gifts to the country since the cessation of a war he had helped to fuel.

Most of the items enumerated by the colonel were never broadcast to the people.Thus the peole of Sierra Leone started asking questions of the Kabbah Government. For this ,Philip was arrested and detained for inflaming political passions against the government, especially a month or two to the elections.

But it should be the responsibility of the government to explain themselves to the people as to what was done with these gifts. This is exactly what happens in the West when political passions are inflamed. And for one , this man was just reporting what the visitor had uttered. Tony Blair used to be dragged to parliament to explain himself . So too is George Bush. They do not go after any journalists.

This notion of arresting journalists has become a habit of the Sierra Leonean leadership. In 1989, under Joseph Momoh, erstwhile journalist for the CHRONICLE newspaper, Lansana Fofanah ,was arrested and detained for writing something that displeased somebody. Our own Editor, Gibril Koroma and Abayomi Punchy Roberts and a host of other journalists were forced to flee the country for writing against ECOMOG bombings of Freetown.

As elections approach in August 2007; I harbor a fear. That is, the fear that the leading Presidential candidates, be it in the PMDC of Charles Margai and the SLPP of Solomon Berewa are led by Lawyers , who can circumvent the law to chase political opponents out of the race or the country. I stand to be corrected.


* Alpha Lebbie(photo) is the Vanguard’s USA Bureau Chief.