Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 November 2019:
The newly elected executives of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), held their first meeting with President Dr Julius Maada Bio at State House in Freetown yesterday, and commended government’s efforts at repealing Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act, which criminalises libel and stifles press freedom.
President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said that they recognise the commitment of government in repealing the criminal libel law, and that for the first time in the history of the fight against the law, it has now gained cabinet approval.
He commended the President for his determination to see the law changed, and noted that this would set the stage for private sector investment in the media.
“We want to commend Your Excellency for marching your words with action; and we believe that the repeal of the criminal libel law will help to create a turnaround for the more responsible and productive media.”
Recognising the role played by the media during last year’s general and presidential elections which saw the SLPP winning the presidency, the SLAJ president said: “Let me also thank you for the various appointments you have allocated to some of our colleagues in the media and for the annual subvention that you promised which we have started receiving.” (Photo below: President Bio – right, and SLAJ president Nasralla- left).
President Julius Maada Bio congratulated the new executives and praised the outgone executives for a smooth transition, noting that the media being a critical voice in society, must be part of the governance process. He said that it is a collective responsibility to ensure that democracy and development thrive, in order to fix the nation’s problems.
He also stated that it is the joint responsibility of all stakeholders – not only journalists, to work together to identify the critical challenges facing society, and to also prescribe solutions that are workable and sustainable.
The president said that constructive criticism is an important part of any democratic process, because it provides the necessary checks and balances that promote accountability.
“The repeal of the Criminal Libel Law process has gone so far. People have to be mindful on how they use the media to ensure that they are not misused because people are sensitive of their reputation. As the representative group, you have to be mindful and make sure that it is not misused because reputations are difficult to build but very easy to destroy,” the president told the journalists.