April 4, 2018 Hassan Gbassay Koroma &Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
Chief Observer of the 2018 European Union Election Observation Mission in Sierra Leone, Jean Lambert, has condemned intimidation and attacks on journalists on Election Day, noting that the media should be free to cover election processes in the country.
According to the preliminary statement issued by the EU mission, there was a reported case of intimidation of journalists of Kambia-based radio station –Kolenten – and two separate attacks on newspaper journalists in Freetown, reported by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ).
Speaking during a presser at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel at Aberdeen in Freetown, Ms. Lambert said Sierra Leoneans again turned out in large numbers to cast their votes, thus asserting their desire to strengthen democracy during an election which was conducted in an orderly and transparently manner.
However, she noted that the peaceful participation of citizens was in sharp contrast with a campaign period marked by fear of tribalism and pressure on the National Electoral Commission (NEC), which resulted in a delayed of run-off election and a period of political uncertainty.
She noted that despite political attacks NEC managed to maintain its independence and performed their duties in a professional manner.
“In some areas campaigners faced threats of violence and elements within the two main political parties mobilised harsh rhetoric and groups of young supporters which had an intimidating effect on some voters. In this context, the EU Observer Mission applauds the constructive role of civil society in reminding the political parties of their responsibilities in a liberal democracy,” she said.
She maintained that in the last stage of the electoral process it was crucial that political parties and their supporters commit themselves to ensuring a peaceful outcome of the election and respecting voters’ commitment and will.
She noted that the rule of law should not be politicised and that the verdict of the polls must be respected.
The mission, who observed 390 polling stations on Election Day, said voting and counting were transparent and credible, while polling agents of both parties and domestic observers were present in practically all the polling stations they visited.
According to their preliminary statement on election night and the following days, the EU EOM observed the intake of Reconciliation Result Forms (and other electoral material) from Polling Centres in all district electoral offices.
“In this phase, the District Electoral Officers verified the integrity of the tamper evident envelopes containing results forms before dispatching them to the regional tally centers,” the EU EOM statement concluded.