Sierra Leone: SLAJ Urges Govt to Drop All Criminal, Seditious Libel Cases

As they joined other journalist organizations across the world to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalist, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has called on the Government of Sierra Leone to drop all ongoing Criminal and Seditious Libel cases against journalists.

This year's commemoration came shortly after the symbolic signing of the repeal of the obnoxious Criminal and Seditious libel law by President Julius Maada Bio.

In a release issued to observe the day,SLAJ further called on the government and its agencies to not only protect and promote freedom of speech always, but to also help to ensure the safety and security of all journalists working in the country at all times.

The journalist body made the call yesterday 2, November in a press statement as a way of commemorating the International Day to end Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.

In line with the United Nations Resolution which urges member states to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity against journalists, SLAJ President,Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, urges government and its agencies, especially the national security forces, to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, and to take appropriate action against perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers.

He said apart from violence, his organisation also notes with serious concern other forms of attacks such as discrimination, intimidation and harassment against journalists and media workers.

"We therefore call on specifically local authorities, the Judiciary and the Parliament of Sierra Leone to exercise their supreme powers with caution and due consideration of the crucial work of journalists to hold public institutions to account and to bring the news to the people on a daily basis," he said.

He said over the years, SLAJ, through the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), has been monitoring and publishing reports on press freedom and freedom of expression situation in Sierra Leone, and that the last report on 'Press Freedom in Sierra Leone' released in May 2020, highlighted the status of 26 cases of various attacks on journalists in Sierra Leone over a two-year period most of which were based on alleged breaches of Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965), indicating a general decline in crimes against journalists.

He said with the repeal of the anti-free speech law, SLAJ hopes the situation with the safety and security of journalists and media workers will continue to improve.

He also calls on media houses to also put in-house policies in place to ensure the safety and security of their workers and to ensure their professionalism always.

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