Magistrate Isatou Janneh of the Bundung Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Thursday, 10 July, 2014 slammed Mr. Lasana Jobarteh with a fine of D50,000 (Fifty Thousand dalasi) or in default to serve one year imprisonment.
Mr. Jobarteh was on trial on a count of broadcasting without a license and is accused of giving information abroad using Skype while attending the political rallies of the opposition United Democratic Party at Buffer Zone in the Kanifing Municipality, Brikama and other places without a broadcasting license. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Two witnesses, both National Intelligence Agency officers, testified for the prosecution. The defendant has also given evidence and his lawyer has stated that none of them linked his client to the said offence in his address in court.
Magistrate Janneh convicted the 52 year old opposition stalwart and gave him the optional sentence of a fine for broadcasting without license, after concluding that the prosecution has proven elements of evidence against the accused in the trial.
“I find that the prosecution has proven its case against the accused,” said the trial magistrate.
In delivering her judgment in a crowded courtroom, the trial magistrate said there is no doubt that the accused has transmitted information through Skype which, she added, was wanting on the part of the accused person. She went on to define the meaning of ‘broadcasting’, adding that the word is not only limited to radio and television services. She said the accused person as an individual may not be eligible to get a broadcasting license while his action amounts to broadcasting.
“The accused is hereby fined with a sum of D50, 000, in default to serve one year imprisonment,” she ordered.
The trial magistrate maintained that the accused knows what he is tried for before the court which, she said, was an important factor in the trial. She summarized the case including the number of witnesses that testified and exhibits tendered in the trial. She also read out the testimony of the accused who pleaded not guilty.
In his plea of mitigation for his client, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe submitted that the case before the court is not the criminal offense that alleged the punishment provided by the Information and Communication Act. He submitted that the proprietor of Freedom Newspaper who is not in the country should have been subjected to the punishment.
“The accused does not have the rights to impart information to the supporters abroad. It’s not an offense of violence. It is not against the society. It has not caused any loss. It cannot be said it is a prevalent case in the country. It is part of his efforts that the GRTS has come into being,” said Lawyer Darboe.
The defense lawyer made an application for the court to give three (3) weeks to his client to settle the fine imposed on him.
There was no objection from the police prosecutor who only noted that the bond has expired and called for a recognizant.
Subsequently, the application of the defense was granted.
The court however ordered the accused to pay the fine on or before the 4th August 2014, suspended the sentence and insisted it would reinforce the sentence in the event the deadline elapses.