Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 November 2020:
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) yesterday joined other organisations around the world to observe the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’, by calling on the Government of Sierra Leone and its agencies to not only protect and promote freedom of speech, but to also help to ensure the safety and security of all journalists working in the country at all times.
“In line with the United Nations Resolution urging Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity against journalists, we urge Government and its agencies, especially the national security forces, to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, and to take appropriate action against perpetrators of crimes against media workers,” said SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (Photo above).
He added: “Since this year’s End Impunity day comes shortly after the symbolic signing of the repeal of the obnoxious Criminal and Seditious libel law, we call on the Government of Sierra Leone to immediately drop all ongoing cases of Criminal and Seditious Libel in our courts.”
Apart from violence, SLAJ also notes with serious concern other forms of attack such as discrimination, intimidation and harassment against journalists and media workers, especially our female colleagues.
We therefore call on specifically local authorities, Judiciary and the Parliament of Sierra Leone to exercise their supreme powers with caution and due consideration of the crucial work of journalists to hold public institutions to account and to bring the news to the people on daily basis.
Over the years, SLAJ, through the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), has been monitoring and publishing reports on press freedom and freedom of expression situation in Sierra Leone. The last report on ‘Press Freedom in Sierra Leone’ released in May 2020, highlighted the status of 26 cases of various attacks on journalists in Sierra Leone over a two-year period (most of which were based on alleged breaches of Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965), indicating a gradual decline in the number of crimes against journalists and media workers.
With the repeal of this anti-free speech law, SLAJ hopes the situation with the safety and security of journalists and media workers will continue to improve.
Meanwhile, SLAJ calls on media houses to also put in-house policies in place to ensure the safety and security of their workers, as that will enhance their professionalism.
The leopard will never shed its spots. When some sections of our communities and indeed international communities are lauding Bio about the repeal of the libel and seditious 1965 Act, maybe we should have waited until the dust settle down, and remove the scales in our eyes and look at what it meant practically to journalists and citizens in the country wishing to express themselves, without having to worry about Bio and his over jealous security apparatus. It goes to show this president is never a fan of the free press. For him the definition freedom of the press, is not as you know it, or interpret to be. The meaning of the freedom of the press in presidents Bio’s world, is to use it as a bait and or a vehicle for more international foreign aid.
As long as our Western partners can hear him say all the right things, but in practice, do the wrong things to the people of Sierra Leone, in their eyes he is a great reformer. No one knows this better than the president. If you keep repeating a lie, people will start to believe in you. President Bio has never been a fan of the press. Just look at his records. How many people were picked up for Facebook postings or other means of communication, his government deem offensive? In today’s Sierra Leone, journalists are more scared for their lives after the seditious and libel was axed than when it was in existence. Before Bio axed the 1965 libel Law Act, journalists knew where they stand with the law. Just like before they are fighting the same old battles. They just want to be heard and informed the public about the state of our country. It is a feeling like some things never changed. May God bless Sierra Leone.