“FALSE INFORMATION” LAW IS AGAINST THE PUBLIC INTEREST!

 

Editor Mbai,

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Public interest requires that the “false information” law be abolished.

It is a question of balance: does a law do more harm than good? Same with the immunities discussed below: does society benefit morewith these immunities in place for informants? Individuals may suffer at the hands of an informant, but does society benefit more if we grant that informant immunity?

 

Firstly, the police need information to fight crime. Members of the public, witnesses and informant must be able to give information to the police without fear of being charged or sued. People who inform the police of a crime or potential crime have absolute immunitywith regard to the information they give to the police, even if it turns out to be false.

 

Secondly, other government departments also need information from the public to safeguard the public interest. The most important of these departments is the Social Services which protects children and vulnerable individuals. It is in the public interest, for example, for my neighbour to report me to Social Services if they think my child is being neglected or mistreated.

 

Thirdly, the “whistle-blower” protection laws allow government employees to report mismanagement and corruption in government departments so that corrective measures can be taken. For example, if an MD on a trip to Dakar claims 10 days per diem when in fact he was there on official business for 5 days, then his officials must, in the public interest, be able to report the crime (fraud in this case).

 

Fourthly, journalists are the watch-dogs of the public interest and must be able to report the information they receive from reliable sources without fear of ending up in jail.

 

Solutions To Problems Caused By False Information 

 

Where information provided to authorities aredeliberately and malicious false (i.e. the person knew it was false), there are remedies:-

 

Firstly, the police could charge such persons with “wasting police time”;

 

Secondly, if the matter ends up in court where the ‘false witness’ must give evidence on oath, that false witness can be charged with “perverting the cause of justice” – almost also sent to jail in UK (six months or so). The is also the tort of “false prosecution” where the victim can sue the malicious provider of false information – once that information results in a prosecution based on the false evidence.

 

Thirdly, deliberately and malicious false reporting will not protect a “whistle-blower” (who is protected – until it can be proven that he/she gave out information that he knew to be false!).

 

Fourthly, journalists can be sued for libel, defamation, and even harassment in the civil courts – not in a criminal court.

 

In conclusion, 

 

The false information law under which Kexx Sanneh is charged is a bad law that is against the public interest and it should be abolished.

 

Dida Jallow-Halake,

Notting Hill, UK.

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