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Today is world press freedom day!

SLAJ urges gov’t to speed-up repeal of bad law

May 3, 2019

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

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SLAJ Scribe tired of political promises to repeal libel laws

The journalism fraternity in Sierra Leone will today join their colleagues around the world to observe this year’s World Press Freedom Day on the theme: “Criminal libel law and quality journalism”.

The day is being observed on May 3rd of every year to draw attention to the many challenges facing freedom of expression and of the press across the world.

Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, urged the current government to speed-up the repeal of the criminal libel law, which President Julius Maada Bio and his Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) promised to expunge while running for office in 2018.

The campaign to have the obnoxious law repealed from our law books has been ongoing for years with the country’s journalism body at the centre of it. Former president Ernest Bai Koroma failed to  fulfill  his promise of repealing it during his two terms.

According to Nasralla, the continued existence of the criminal libel law in the country’s law books scares away worthy private investment in the media and also preventing women from aspiring for higher positions in the media.

“Our concerns have been the criminal libel law and the economy of the media. The law is still in our law books and is affecting our work by preventing us from conducting in-depth investigation into activities of public officials and institutions. We urged the government to speed-up the repeal,” he said.

In the area of media economy, the SLAJ scribe stated that the industry was not thriving as it continues to remain poor with acute drop in advertising and advertisement rate very low- perhaps the lowest in the sub-region.

He added that government, which is the biggest advertiser, is usually faulty with payment, causing many media houses to lose and write-off huge amount of advertisement revenues on a yearly basis.

With regards this year’s press freedom day, Nasralla disclosed that with support from the European Union, a panel discussion will be hosted at the British Council Auditorium to discuss criminal libel law and quality journalism.

“We are using the occasion to rekindle the discussion around the repeal of the law with a view to urge the current government to fulfill its promise as soon as possible. We also want to discuss the challenges facing the media economically,” he stated.

He added that concerns about conditions of services for reporters and how the media could be able to make genuine money will also form part of the panel discussion.

He noted that because of the poverty in the media, it is difficult to attract professionals and hence quality output is low.

“This is a period that we do a retrospection of how far we have come as a media and what we have achieved and not achieved and look at the challenges. We will also hang heads to come up with applicable solutions to where we want to be as media practitioners,” the SLAJ scribe added.