- Two Guinean editors, Thiernodjo Diallo and Abdoul Aziz Camara, had been handed down six-month suspended sentences and fines of US $12,781 each after a magistrate court in the capital Conakry found them guilty of defaming a former Minister of Works, Bahna Sidibe.
The convicted editors are Managing Editors of the privately-owned weekly newspapers, ‘La Vérite’ and ‘Libération', respectively.
The court also ordered the journalists to each pay US $256 as damages to the former minister they had earlier run articles accusing him of misappropriating state funds.
In its 20 March edition, ‘La Vérite’ ran an article "Ministry of Works: The other face of Bahna Sidibe", authored by Thiernodjo, accusing the former minister of diverting funds earmarked for road infrastructure to build his private apartment. The money amounts to US $255,624.
The same story was confirmed by ‘Libération’ the following month.
Bahna used the courts to seek redress by suing the journalists for defamation.
The presiding magistrate, N'Fansoumane Toure, blamed the journalists for not proving the allegations they levelled against Bahna.
But local journalists condemned the sentence, describing it as a “travesty of justice.“
“The presiding magistrate has been bribed by Bahna Sidibe,” Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) quoted Mr Thiernodjo as saying. “We challenged him, but he still passed the judgement.“
The aggrieved editors have filed an appeal against the sentence.
The MFWA expressed worry about the exorbitant fines imposed on the journalists.
“We maintain that whilst damages for the alleged slur on the former minister's reputation may have a deterrent value, the effect of such claims should not be of such punitive levels that the very existent or viability of the media is jeopardized,” the MFWA officials said.
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