The above question, I believe would be pondering on the minds of critical minded Sierra Leoneans since the arrest and detention at the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters, of a journalist for simply being professional in the execution of his profession. Journalist Sallieu Tejan Jalloh was arrested and detained only because he had requested a response from the Chief Minister, Professor David Francis, who was alleged to have received some million United States Dollars through his account at the Ecobank.The alleged 1.5 Million United States Dollars was said to have been deposited by SL Mining Company and that the Chief Minister did several withdrawals.
According to the journalist, he got a tip-off from the Financial Intelligence Unit, an institution set up by government to investigate financial fraud and terrorism financing, among a host of others. Professionally and legally, journalists are required to cross check and fact check stories before publication, so as to maintain accuracy and balance. The accuracy clause of the Independent Media Commission (IMC)'s Media Code of Practice demands that: ' Newspapers and Periodicals must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted materials or pics.They must make all reasonable efforts to check and cross check the accuracy of their stories prior to publication.'
As a professional journalist, Jalloh strictly followed the rules of engagement as stated above. His only crime was that he wanted the voice of the Chief Minister to be heard. Over the years, public officials have been blaming and bashing at journalists for going to press without doing due diligence- cross checking the fact of their stories. But the arrest and detention of a colleague journalist for only trying to be accurate begs the question as to whether those public officials have been honest in their criticism. The fact of the matter is that many of our public officials in Sierra Leone are so full of themselves and do not even want to talk to journalists. They would flatter journalists, calling them names like members of the Fourth Estate when they want to exploit them. They have little respect for the profession and they often treat journalists with utter disdain. Even those public officials who are merely square pegs in round holes always look low upon journalists. One thing that is clear enough is that journalism in Sierra Leone and some parts of the world has been polarised and there is that kind of paranoid among public officials. Journalists in Sierra Leone are easily branded as long as they are critical about the government. That might have led the Chief Minister to have behaved rather emotionally than being rational and respond to the journalist in a civil manner.
As a public official, you owe it to yourself as a moral obligation to respond to journalists when it comes to issues that border on the public. Therefore, the Chief Minister is no exception to the rules as he is paid by tax payers' money and the honourable thing he would have done was to respond to the simple inquiries from the journalist. His reaction to call the police who criminally arrested the journalist questions his leadership credentials. Instead of treating the issue with rational calculation, he used his emotion and brought embarrassment not only to himself, but to the entire government that is doing everything humanly possible to repeal the obnoxious criminal libel law.
WHO IS PROFESSOR DAVID FRANCIS?
Many would be asking the same question as this writer, because there is limited information about Professor David Francis. All we know about him is that he is a Sierra Leonean and currently the Chief Minister in the New Direction Administration of the Sierra Leone Peoples (SLPP).He first earned his first degree at Fourah Bay College and proceeded overseas where he has been all this while. We only came to later know that there was a highly educated Sierra Leonean, who has spent his entire life in the diaspora in search of a greener pastor, after President Bio was elected in 2018. I hope his defense team would not refute this fact.
Professor David Francis is one of the luckiest Sierra Leoneans, who came from the blues and currently enjoying tax payers' money. In Sierra Leone, we are quick to admire people. I could vividly remember when Professor David Francis headed the Transition Team that produced a damning report about the past All People's Congress (APC) administration. All people were saying about him is that he is a man of high character and has worked for Bradford University in the UK for years as a senior lecturer. But many, including the media, failed to conduct a background check and ask appropriate questions as to who Professor David Francis is and how he left Bradford University. Did he resigned or sacked from the university? Is he a true patriotic Sierra Leonean? These questions are left unanswered and the man is busy enjoying the fruit of those grassroot, who suffered through thick and thin to see where the SLPP is today. Was he part of the famous Paopa that brought the SLPP to power? I may not have answer for this question but what I can deduce is that he may probably be enjoying some compensatory reward for something that we are yet to find out.
After the arrest of journalist Sallieu Tejan Jalloh received huge public outcry, the Office of the Chief Minister issued a damage control statement in defense of the indefensible. Paragrapgh 12 of the said statement read thus: "The Office of the Chief Minister wishes to state that Professor David J. Francis has built his reputation over several decades through hardwork, integrity, humility, transparency and high moral values. His decision to serve as Chief Minister was because of his love for country and passionate commitment to transform Sierra Leone through the leadership of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio."
Love for country indeed! Love for country my foot! This particular claim could just be treated with a pinch of salt because it sounds completely deceitful. How can you convince me that Professor David Francis is in Sierra Leone because of love for country after he had spent half of life in the disapora? How can you convince me when the man is serving in the third highest position as Chief Minister where he is surrounded by all facilities at the expense of tax payers? Had he any love for country, he would have been at the university offering free lectures. Professors are meant to be in the classroom and not where even their shoes are being paid for by the tax payers. Don't lie to me because I am not that blind to read the writing on the wall. I would not hesitate to categorically state that Professor David Francis is not here because of love for country, but to enrich himself after he has wasted half of his life in the diaspora. He has no pointer as to his contribution to the development of the country prior to his being a Chief Minister who is receiving big fat salary.
I am not in any way doubting the credibility of the professor, but I strongly believe that he is not a saint. Government is full of double standards and I am of the strongest view that all the statement issued by the various parties named in the scandal, were done in defense of the Chief Minister. He deserves protection because here is Sierra Leone.