SLAJ urges Judiciary to take action against attackers of journalists

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SLAJ President(R), EU Ambassador (M) & Former SLAJ President (L) launching the manifesto

By Yusufu S. Bangura

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has in their media manifesto urged the judiciary of Sierra Leone to take action against people found guilty of attacking, harassing and intimidating journalists whilst performing their duties.

The 2023 media manifesto was launched on Monday 5th June, at New Brookfield’s Hotel, Jomo Kenyatta Road, Freetown.

The manifesto explained that SLAJ and the security sector signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2021, which set forth the understanding and commitment of the two parties to the safety and security of journalists and maintenance of law and order in the country.

“Safety of journalists is the ability for journalists and media professionals to receive produce and share information without facing physical or moral threats. In Sierra Leone, just like other parts of Africa, journalists are often soft targets for security services, political actors and thugs. Journalists are victims of attack, intimidation, physical or verbal abuse,” said the manifesto.

The manifesto continued that from the MRCG’s monitoring data, since 2018 to 2022, 63 cases were monitored in which journalists were arrested, attacked, beaten or intimidated, adding that apart from those cases, media houses lack safety policies and equipment to help protect their reporters in the newsroom as well as in the field.

It further demands that the National Coordination Committee on the Safety and Security of Journalists and Office of National Security (ONS) to implement the MoU aimed at ensuring the safety and security of journalists.

Also government and its partners should ensure online safety for media practitioners, and media institutions should adapt and implement the safety and security policy developed by SLAJ and MRCG.

The manifesto also talked about the advance gender equality and women’s empowerment which state that various studies have shown that the number of women working in the media has been increasing globally, but however,  the top positions like producers, executives, chief editors and publishers are still very male dominated.

The manifesto further demanded the government and development partners, through the Ministry of Gender to work with SLAJ and women’s media associations in order to develop a gender policy that protects and promotes female journalists in accordance with the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) Act.

It also demanded that government should work with SLAJ to provide free tertiary education for female journalists; they should guarantee the safety of female journalists in the media space as they execute their journalistic duties and also media owners should make the media attractive for women by supporting them to reach middle and senior management positions.

Nevertheless, it is expected that the government would provide the enabling environment for the media to thrive in the country, and donors and media development organisations will support the growth of the industry which is crucial to promoting democracy, national cohesion, peace and security.

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