February 20, 2015 Moses A. Kargbo
The attention of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has been drawn to “threats” issued by the Majority Leader in Parliament against the media discussing or commenting on the Auditor General’s report on the management of Ebola funds.
SLAJ maintains that the opinion expressed by the Majority Leader outrightly conflicts with the spirit and letter of Section 11 of the 1991 Constitution, which provides that “the Press, radio and television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this constitution and highlight the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people.”
“There were no such restrictions placed on discussing the 2012 and 2013 reports by the Auditor General, so why is the report on the use of Ebola funds being treated differently?” asks SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis.
SLAJ also wishes to draw the attention of the Anti-Corruption Commission to the hasty manner in which names of individuals to be investigated have been published. SLAJ does not believe people should be invited to the ACC through the media as this only serves to sensationalise the issue. The ACC should not be seen to be playing to the gallery, thereby unnecessarily damaging the reputations of individuals.
SLAJ therefore urges the Anti-Corruption Commission to in future respect the “good name” of individuals and to not unnecessarily cause damage to their reputation through publication, when they have not been charged to court, found guilty of any wrong doing, or even gone through an investigation.
In this light, SLAJ urges all media practitioners to handle discussions surrounding the Auditor General’s report on the management of Ebola funds ethically, fairly and respectfully.
SLAJ reiterates that it will robustly resist any attempt to curtail freedom of expression and of the press, and views the Auditor General’s report on the management of Ebola funds as a legitimate issue of public interest, which must and should be discussed openly, transparently and fairly.
Public discussion of the issues highlighted in the report will in no way hinder parliamentary debate on these issues. In fact, it will possibly provide more insights for parliamentarians on these issues, thus enriching the debate in Parliament.
Long Live SLAJ!!!
Long Live Press Freedom!!!
Long Live Sierra Leone!!!