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SLRU accuses Parliament of ‘intimidation’

December 8, 2015 By Victoria Saffa

The Sierra Leone Reporters Union (SLRU) has in a press release accused Parliament of ‘intimidation’ over the latter’s decision to invite editor of Salone Times Newspaper, Thomas Dixon, and Station Manager of Society for Radio Democracy, FM98.1, Asmaa James, for questioning.

The two media practitioners have been invited to answer parliamentary questions over a publication in their respective medium relating to an alleged conflict of interest by Minister of Information and Communication Alhaji Alpha Kanu.

Dixon had reported in his newspaper that Alhaji Kanu was implicated in an alleged corrupt use of public funds on overseas travel. FM98.1 interviewed Dixon last Thursday, 3 December, to throw light of the saga, while hosting Deputy Minister of Information and Communication, Theo Nicole.

Apparently lawmakers were not quite unhappy with the interview Dixon gave on FM 98.1 last Thursday, and have gone into overdrive to invite both the interviewer and interviewee for questioning.

Both journalists are due to appear before parliament this morning to answer questions relating to the publication accusing the minister of wasteful travel expenditure.

The invitation by parliament has been described by media practitioners as an attempt to infringe press freedom and muzzle free speech.

The SLRU, an affiliate of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, says it considers the invitation as a form of intimidation and a highly likely move to muzzle the press on reporting sensitive issues.

“We believe that if Parliament wants to clarify any broadcast or publication they should go through the Independent Media Commission as part of strengthening state institutions. Unfortunately, it seems Parliament is acting otherwise and undermining the relevance of the IMC,” said the SLRU release.

The release further notes that: “It could be recalled that Parliament had earlier summoned the managing editor and editor of the Blade Newspaper on a satirical article they published only for them to later refer the matter to the IMC, who fairly fined the Newspaper a million Leones.”

The SLRU says it was their belief that Parliament should rather concentrate on the allegation of corruption raised by the journalists instead of inviting the journalists.

The release urged all journalists “to stand up for Press Freedom” by showing solidarity with their colleagues. It is expected that hundreds of journalists will heed the call and witness the hearing today at Parliament.

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