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SLAJ is Not a Political Party -Ahmed Sahid Nasralla

January 14, 2022

By Alhaji  Haruna Sani

 “In any case, as an association of journalists, our role is to inform and educate the public. SLAJ is not a general advocacy group. Its focus is on press freedom and freedom of speech generally. SLAJ is not a political party,” said Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalist (SLAJ), was reacting to a position paper issued by the Consortium of Progressive Political Parties (CoPPP) on Women and Youth Debate for all Registered Political Parties in Sierra Leone.

 The debate, which is scheduled to take place on 13th and 20th January, is being  organized by the National Political Debates Committee (NPDC).

Members of the CoPPP had written and acknowledged receipt of invitation from SLAJ and NPDC as separate political parties to participate in the political debate, maintaining that the consortium was concerned that SLAJ and many media houses registered with the association have maintained ominous silence in Sierra Leone despite the gross constitutional violations by the government  such as the imposition of the Speaker of Parliament, the appointment of the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission(NEC)  and some commissioners, among several other issues.

SLAJ President asserted that they have not officially received the letter from CoPP and that he only saw it on social media.

“So, I don’t believe its authenticity. But for the sake of our obligation to respond, let me point out that SLAJ has issued statements on a number of the issues listed in the CoPP letter.”

The Consortium also accused SLAJ and several media houses of remaining silence amidst blatant human rights abuses by the government and law enforcement officers, arbitrary arrest and detention of political opponents and dissenters by the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), and the existence of a lopsided judiciary.

CoPPP in their letter also blamed SLAJ of keeping silence despite detention, intimidation, harassment and sacking of women leaders by the government, the police and the judiciary, citing the cases of Dr. Sylvia Blyden, Madam Femi Claudius-Cole, Madam Finda Diana Konomanyi, Mayor Yvonne Aki- Sawyer, and Madam Lara Taylor-Pierce, among others

“It is ironical that SLAJ is leading an organization that is hosting a debate on women’s empowerment after being so conspicuously indifferent to the fate of women leaders cited above. If SLAJ as an association has remained so silent on these issues, CoPPP is of the view that SLAJ lacks the moral standing to lead our nation in such debates on critical national issues.”

But SLAJ President had emphasized in his reaction that, the proposed debate is not about SLAJ alone and that the NPDC is made up of 11 credible member organisations drawn from EMBs, CSOs, Youth groups, Women groups, PWDs and the Media.

The SLAJ President also maintained that the forthcoming debate will be discussing the very issues highlighted in the COPP letter which affect women’s empowerment.

“So as a Committee, we are giving the political parties a platform to articulate these issues.”

President of SLAJ also stated that they had on Tuesday 11th January, this year, held an orientation workshop for all the debaters and moderators to prepare them for the two day debate, stating that all parties were officially invited and all were represented save the All People’s Congress (APC) party, and that the representatives signed a code of conduct for the debate.

“I respect the opinion of COPP about SLAJ and their right to say it. But I also believe it is in the interest of all political parties, and our fledgling democracy, for the parties to support this very important activity we are trying to cultivate in our body politic. Politicians must learn to dialogue and engage one another in a healthy manner.”

Despite the charge, Madam Femi-Claudius Cole, chairperson of CoPPP, assured SLAJ, NPDC and the general public that they as CoPPP had no intention of boycotting the debate and that they just highlighted concerns in their letter for SLAJ to up their game.

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