July 5, 2021
By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
President of Sierra Leone Associations of Journalists (SLAJ) Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, launching the report
The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), with support from the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), last Friday launched the press freedom report which covers the period of March, 2018 to December, 2020, with the theme “The State of Media Freedom in Sierra Leone”.
The launching took place at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) headquarters, Campbell Street in Freetown.
Chairman of MRCG, Dr. Francis Sowa, said the report monitors press freedom and freedom of expression in Sierra Leone and that it covers arrest, detentions and prosecution of journalists and civil society activists, while it also tracks media performance in the country.
He said the report tracks media freedom issues in Sierra Leone within the last three years-2018-2020, and that it targets press freedom under President Julius Maada Bio.
He said the report also contains an overview of laws, policies and institutions governing the media space in Sierra Leone.
He added that the report also reviews the arrest and detentions of journalists over the years using Criminal and Seditious Libel law enshrined in the Public Order Act (POA) of1965(No.461965).
He noted that Part V of the POA served as an obstacle to the media in terms of fulfilling it democratic roles due to increased fear of incarceration arising from the provisions of the law, which undermined freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution of Sierra Leone.,
Dr. Francis Sowa said the report is divided into different areas, including the arrest and detention of journalists and civil society activists, guaranteeing freedom of expression and of the press, regulating bodies for electronic and print media, telecommunications, performance of media institutions, and status of media laws in Sierra Leone, among others.
He said President Julius Maada Bio’s signing of the Public Order (Amendment) Act 2020 into law on the 28th October was as a fulfilment of his campaign promise to repeal the criminal and seditious libel provisions in the country’s law books.
“The repeal is expected to create an enabling environment for media practitioners and civil society activists to hold government accountable and promote good democratic governance,” he said.
He said even though the criminal libel law has been repealed, there are still inconclusive cases relating to the arrest, detention, intimidation and harassment of journalists.
He concluded that they will continue to call on the government, politicians, organisations, institutions, members of society and even media owners to support media freedom and safety and security of journalists in Sierra Leone.
President of Sierra Leone Associations of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, thanked MRCG for the report and noted that the report was very important as it touches on press freedom and freedom of expression for all journalists and civil society activists in the country.
He said they would continue popularizing the media code of ethics, thus encouraging members to go by the rules of the IMC in any platform they found themselves.
President Nasralla said he was very happy about the progress made by the government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of President Maada Bio by repealing the seditious libel laws in Part V of the Public Order Act.
He thanked the MRCG for the tremendous effort in putting the research together, and called on journalists to be responsible in their writing, stating that the repealed was not for journalists to blackmail people.