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"President Koroma is a big disappointment to press freedom" - SLAJ PDF Print E-mail
Written by culled from AWOKO NEWSPAPER   
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 22:28

Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, has said that President Ernest Bai Koroma has disappointed the media on press freedom in the country. 

“Successive governments have given us false hopes on the repeal of the criminal libel law. The politicians have lied to us. They have taken us to be big fools. President Koroma is our biggest disappointment. We had high hopes in him but he failed us woefully. So we will not trust any politician again, because when they get into office they forget about their promises,” said Nasralla.
Nasralla was speaking last Friday while formally launching a report on criminal defamation laws in Africa by PEN Sierra Leone at the SLAJ Harry Yansaneh Memorial Hall, Campbell Street, Freetown. 
He recalled that before he was first elected President of the Republic in 2007, President Koroma was a staunch campaigner against criminal libel law in Sierra Leone, but when he became President he suddenly had a different view.
“When they are aspiring for political office they sing the repeal song along with the media, but when they eventually assume power politicians suddenly realize that the criminal libel law as contained in the 1965 Public Order Act is a fine law to gag the level of scrutiny of government and its officials by the media,” said Nasralla, adding that this time around they would not listen to any false promises from any politician.
Nasralla said SLAJ has been campaigning for the repeal of the criminal libel law for over 20 years now, noting that while most people think the law only affect journalists the reality is that it affects everybody, especially those who are engaged in the business of expression of views and opinions on issues- musicians, actors, playwrights, poets, story tellers, comedians, cartoonists, etc.
But for journalists particularly he said: “We have said it over and over again that the criminal libel law affects our work. It prevents us from going the extra mile to actually expose corrupt government officials. It discourages our female colleagues from aspiring for top positions in the media because they are afraid of going to jail. It discourages private sector investment in the media because the last thing business people want is to get in conflict with the government,” said Nasralla.
The SLAJ Secretary General, however, noted the strides made by SLAJ and its partners- including the Government- in recent times to repeal the law. He cited the National Symposium on the Reform of Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965 on 27th September, 2016 at the Miatta Conference Hall which brought together major stakeholders - SLAJ, IMC, MRCG, the Sierra Leone Police, the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the Ministry of Justice and the Law Officers Department, the Justice Sector Development Programme, Ministry of Information and Communications, and civil society- to discuss the way forward. He said the consensus reached at the symposium was that the criminal libel law was a bad law and must be repealed. 
“We understand very well that to change a law like this is a process, and it involves institutional contributions. It involves going through stages, including Cabinet and Parliament. We have gone as far as developing a Cabinet Paper but what seems to be lacking is the political will, which has to come from His Excellency the President. Given that his final term in office ends in a couple of months as we go into general elections in March 2018, it’s apparent that this is as far as we can go under the current government administration.  So the law remains, and we are concerned that the Government will use it against not only critical journalists but even against rival politicians,” said Nasralla.
Furthermore, Nasralla said there are two concerns directed at the media. One, he said, is what was SLAJ doing to deal with its errant members and two, what would be the replacement for the criminal libel law?
“In my opinion these concerns should not be stumbling blocks to the reform of the criminal libel law,” said Nasralla.  “Apart from the Independent Media Commission Code of Practice, we have our own internal regulatory systems. We have the SLAJ Disciplinary and Complaints Committee which handles issues relating to errant members and we have the SLAJ Code of Ethics which guides professional practice and conduct. The IMC also handles media complaints and lately there’s been a decline in the number of complaints coming from the public. This is a clear demonstration that we are moving towards responsible practice,” said Nasralla, adding that the public should note that their call for the repeal of the criminal libel law should not be misinterpreted as a license to assassinate people’s characters or reputation.  
On the issue of a replacement, Nasralla said all they have been asking for was for the criminal aspect to be taken off the libel.
“Nobody should be sent to jail and tagged criminal for merely making a mistake when expressing their views or commenting on issues,” said Nasralla. “In all professions- medical, law, engineering- practitioners make mistakes all the time. We believe that the more freedom we get the more responsible we become. In the absence of a criminal libel law, there’s the civil libel law which we think can be a perfect replacement but that also should be reviewed, especially the aspect of fines.”
Meanwhile, Nasralla commended PEN Sierra Leone for putting the report together and encourage them to continue to be part of the alliance advocating for the repeal of the criminal libel law in Sierra Leone.
The report, titled: Stifling Dissent, Impeding Accountability: Criminal Defamation Laws in Africa, highlights that criminal sanctions deter media investigations into and reporting of issues governments consider sensitive or embarrassing, such as high-level corruption, official malpractice or law breaking, thereby facilitating official secrecy and undermining accountability.






26th IPRA Conference in Sierra Leone Ends on a High Note

The International Peace Research Association (IPRA) successfully held its 26th General Conference on ‘Agenda for Peace and Development: Conflict Prevention, Post-Conflict Transformation, and the Conflict, Disaster Risk and Sustainable Development Debate’ in collaboration with the 10TH Dealing With Disasters Series, Northumbria University (UK)and Sakarya University (Turkey) and  the University of  Sierra Leone at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone from November 27 to 1st December 2016.


Business News


The Parliament of Sierra Leone on Monday 04th December 2017 debated and ratified two additional agreements aimed at improving and expanding Ports facilities in Sierra Leone to be at par with international best practices.

Presenting both Agreements prior to ratification, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Balogun Koroma said that the additional Agreements are geared towards addressing some of the concerns raised by MPs, in respect of expanding our Ports facilities to accommodate larger vessels, and the issuance of license with the view of combating money laundering, contra-band goods, and attracting more funds for Government.

Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, Minority Leader of the House, also supported the ratification of the two Agreements, saying if our Ports are not developed, we would not be able to attract huge vessels; thus the need for the continuous improvement of our Ports facilities.


Media News

Two veteran Journalists, now in the United States have paid a courtesy call on Sierra Leone's Ambassador

Two very respected and veteran Journalists who are in the United States of America for various reasons have called on Sierra Leone’s Amr. Bockari Kortu Stevens not only to appreciate the work of the Embassy, but also to pay courtesy as protocol demands.

Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson, former Lecturer Fourah Bay College, former Director of Information Ministry of Information and Communications, Former Director Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), Former Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) and stringer French News Agency  etc. is on vacation and Mr. Cyril Juxon Smith Director Information and Communications House of Parliament, former Acting Director General Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and former UNESCO Media Consultant  is in the United States of America to attend the funeral of his father.

Speaking at the Ambassador’s residence on 4821 Colorado Avenue, Washington DC  Mr. Rod Mac-Johnson said “Thank  you Amr. Stevens for accommodating us in the middle of your tight schedule, and also to discuss with us in a homely spirit.



Reasons why Sierra Leoneans Must Think beyond Tribal and Regional Lines Before Casting their Ballots This Time

As the national or general elections loom in Sierra Leone and, as a true citizen, I solemnly pray and hope with all hopes that Sierra Leoneans of the voting age will consider carefully who they would vote for, come March 2018. The divisive and immature nature of politics as it exists in Sierra Leone has, to a greater extent, contributed to the country lagging behind nearly all other countries in terms of progressive development. My readers should be mindful of the fact that certain countries in Africa would rather develop retrogressively than progressively, a situation wherein governments embark on ego-boosting programs that aren’t beneficial to the average citizen.

A government which expends its energy for the benefit of the people is a progressive government and that is what Sierra Leoneans want at this time after being in the doldrums for ages. It is therefore absolutely necessary for fellow citizens to refrain from casting their valued votes in favor of candidates because of tribal or regional affiliations but on how genuine and capable that candidate is, otherwise stagnation in progress is bound to follow.


View Point


Your Excellency Sir,

I write this piece with extreme emotive disdain, in reflection on the “Libyan/North African Modern Slave Trade” horrendous saga - enjoining it with the “Mediterranean Genocide.”  Let me commence by lending my voice to that of countless Africans, who have risen in gross condemnation of this barbaric and heinous “subhuman” trade and phenomenon across the deserts and seas. Those inhumane treatments have lately been also condemned by the UN system, the AU, the ECOWAS and the EU, (alongside several international human right actors); after these ruthless human trafficking syndicates and desperate refuge seeking adventures were graphically brought to the glare of the entire world by the international press.

It is extremely appalling and unimaginable that some of our fellow Africans and Arabs could morally degenerate to such an extent in the 20th and 21st centuries, as to treating their fellowmen in such gruesome, despicable and horrific manner, as inflicting terrible physical tortures, only comparable to that of the “Nazi concentration camps” in the 20th century, infamously referred to as “the holocaust.” Sadly though, this trade that has just been recently trumpeted, has been going on for over half a century right at the fringes of the so-called “civilized and free world,” and under the watchful eyes and impassivity of our continental and global organizations and actors. As such, I could rightfully refer to these dastardly trades as the “neo-colonial slave trade.” What absurdity and aberration!!   


News - Press Release

PPRC and UNDP Re-activate District Code Monitoring Committee

The Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) in league with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday 7th December 2017 re-activated the District Code Monitoring Committee (DCMC).

At a ceremony held at the Family Kingdom in Freetown, the programme brought together members from the fourteen registered political parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Office of National Security (ONS), Traditional Leaders, the Media and Civil Society Organizations from the sixteen districts in Sierra Leone.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Programme, Commissioner Babatunde Pratt says Sierra Leone has come a long way in building our democratic process. This he says has however not been an easy task as we are still faced with the horrors of our past. Regional divide, violence, political intolerance among others he says have marred our political space and if not nip on the bud will affect the growth and political stability of the country.


Society -Local News

Fatmata Binta Jalloh Annie Walsh Memorial Secondary School has won this years’ Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Inter-Secondary School debate on the topic ‘respect for human rights as a pre-requisite for a politically tolerant and peaceful 2018 elections’.  
The debate which was held at the Sierra Leone Library Board with five Secondary Schools participating is part of series of activities undertaken by HRCSL in commemorating the International Human Rights Day Celebration on December 10th, 2017. Fatmata Binta Jalloh of the Annie Walsh Memorial School came first by defeating Amos Claudius Gordon from the Prince of Wales who came second, Abubakar Marrah from Saint Edwards Secondary School came third and Kelfala Kamara of the Government Model Secondary School came fourth and Evelyn T. Ahorney from the Saint Joseph’s Secondary School coming fifth.



On November 21,2017 the United States Department for Agriculture (USDA), through Catholic Relief Services (CRS), commissioned 151 school structures to support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)in promotingquality learning environments within five vulnerable chiefdoms of Koinadugu District, northern Sierra Leone.

The commissioning ceremony was attended by the Honorable Minister of Education, Dr. Minkailu Bah,other senior MEST officials, and 6 Paramount Chiefs and Regents from the “All Pikin for Learn” intervention area.

The program ‘All Pikin for Learn,’funded by USDA’s McGovern-Dole (MGD) International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program since 2008, is a food assistance and education program that seeks to improve the enrollment, attendance and literacy,along with health and dietary practices, of primary school-aged children.



President Koroma outlines his government achievements in closing address to Parliament

President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Supreme Head of State and Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Fountain Head of Unity, Honour, Freedom and Justice at Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown

on Thursday, 7th December, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. On the Occasion of the Dissolution of the Fourth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in the Chamber of Parliament Building, Tower Hill, Freetown

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