APC Honourable Provides Iftar to Muslims

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The All people’s Congress (APC) Member of Parliament for Constituency 050 in the Tonkolili District Hon Hassan A. Sesay made the donation in order to complement their efforts in observing the holy month of Ramadan.

 

Among the items, are rice, cartons and packets of onions, oil, tomato and Maggie worth over sixty million Leones.

The aim, according to the MP is to complement the Muslim ummah at this particular economic trial.

He said the donation has been his practice even before going to Parliament and that he fell special to always respond to their needs and be among them.

Hon. Sesay also apologized to the Christian followers for not doing much for them for a long time now but promised to organize a special session for them this December to address some of their concerns.

The MP has also provided machine for garie production

for Makump section and resources for the construction of court barry at Mayatha.

To him, all of these was to fulfill his campaign promises and moving the agenda of the All people’s Congress.

 According to the Constituency chairman, Sallieu Sankoh commonly called SA4, the All people’s Congress is known for its development and that the donation of the large consignment of assorted items was not a surprise to the Constituency authorities and the Islamic Council.

Mr Sankoh thanked the MP for not letting them down and putting smiles to the faces of their people.

He also dilated on the significance of the Ramadan and the values it would add to anybody who provide for a Jamatt or fellow.

Sallieu Sankoh explained that Islam was a unique religion and well package for mankind.

He however noted that as a chairman, he would ensure that the identified Mosques got the items

Mr Sankoh disclosed that through their MP, they had the quality of reaching out to individual Imams away from general donations whilst highlighting the achievements had already made by the MP over the years.

The Imams thanked and prayed for the MP and the entire executive for the gesture

They said though the donation was not new to them as they have been looking forward to something Hon. Sesay has started long time ago.

They also prayed for the nation and the town for peace and unity.

The Imams concluded that the award for giving alms to those that were observing the holy month could not be overemphasize.

SLAJ President Speaks on World Press Freedom Day

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30 years ago a group of journalists, including our own Paul Kamara from Sierra Leone, met in Namibia to adopt the Windhoek Declaration for the development of a free, independent and pluralistic press.

 

SLAJ therefore joins the rest of the world and UNESCO to celebrate 30yrs of the Windhoek Declaration as it gives us an opportunity to reflect where we have come from, where we are now and where we want to go with regards freedom of speech and of the press. It further reminds us of our responsibilities as journalists, and the obligations of governments to guarantee these fundamental rights that are crucial to the development of our democracies.

 

Repeal of Criminal Libel Law

For us in Sierra Leone and for SLAJ specifically, for the first time in 50 years we are commemorating World Press Freedom Day without having to call on the Government to scrap the infamous Criminal and Seditious Libel Law contained in Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965.

 Last year, 2020, our nation took the very bold but necessary action of repealing the 55yr-old law, ushering a new dawn for not only journalists and the media, but also for all Sierra Leoneans and even politicians and giving a new meaning to our fledgling democracy.

 

Freedom of expression is the fundamental human right upon which all other freedoms (association, assembly and peaceful protest) depend, and so we want to thank His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio, his Government and the Parliament of Sierra Leone for this brave accomplishment.

 

We also want to recognize the role played by the International Community in Sierra Leone, CSOs and other stakeholders in that regard.

 And to start the celebration of this landmark victory, we are today opening a Book of Reflection on the demise of the Criminal and Seditious Libel Law, where victims will share their experiences with the anti-free speech legislation.

 Later on in the course of the year, we will premiere a documentary showing our long walk to freedom; and we are also working to install a commemorative structure to Free Speech and Free Media.

 

World Press Freedom Index

With the repeal of the anti-free speech law, it should not surprise you that Sierra Leone moved 10 places up in the latest World Press Freedom Index from 85th to 75th.

 While this is very encouraging, we need to continue to do more to not only jealously guard that freedom and civic space that we have achieved, but to do all we can to continue to expand it.

 We must particularly note that the repeal only takes away criminal and seditious libel law; there are still other common laws that remind us to be more responsible and professional in our work as media practitioners. There is, for example, the civil defamation law. And journalists reporting the courts and parliament should be reminded that there is the law of contempt.

 

Let me reiterate what I said following the repeal of the criminal libel law that whilst we have been given more freedom to do our work we must know that such freedom goes with immense responsibility. So we must not give any reason to those who were opposed to the repeal to say we told you not to repeal. This is not to say, however, that as journalists, we must not investigate and expose corruption in high places; or we must not hold public officials and our government to account. What we are saying is for us to do this but in a responsible manner and strictly following the codes that define our profession.

 

Cybercrime Bill

SLAJ has made its position clear on the Cybercrime Bill 2020 that it is not against a legislation that seeks to protect and promote responsible use of the cyber space which is becoming increasingly a dangerous threat to our individual and collective security, peace and stability, but that in its current draft form it is not a good law for our country.

 

In our position statement, which is on behalf of the entire media fraternity in the country including the IMC, RAIC and MRCG, and which we have submitted to the Ministry of Information and Communications and the leadership of Parliament, we raised serious concerns relating to provisions and sections in the bill that have the potential to undermine the gains we have made as a country in the area of freedom of expression and of the press, and people’s privacy rights.

 

SLAJ therefore takes this opportunity, in observing World Press Freedom Day, to urge and appeal to our elected representatives in the Parliament of Sierra Leone to scrutinize this bill and take onboard our concerns (and those from expert groups) in the same spirit and manner we collectively pursued and achieved the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965 and the passing of the IMC Act 2020.

 

Safety and security of journalists

A recent study on the State of Safety of Journalists Policies and Practices among Media Houses in Sierra Leone conducted by the MFWA and MRCG with support from the Dutch Foreign Ministry (through the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana) show that majority of the media houses studied lacked safety and security, and gender policies.

Journalists in the line of duty expose themselves to dangers when covering riots or demonstrations, and most popular perpetrators of violations against journalists are police officers, military personnel, politicians, civil servants, and community stakeholders/people.

So while the criminal libel law is gone, harassment and intimidation of journalists are now taking different forms.

 

SLAJ is concerned about this and we will discuss these issues, including the recommendations of the study, at our coming AGM to brainstorm on workable approaches to ensure the safety and security of all journalists, and to promote gender mainstreaming in the media.

 

As part of events for our 50th anniversary celebration, in November 2nd marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, SLAJ will be partnering with the national security sector for a roundtable frank talk to address our differences, understand our roles, and respect our responsibilities and how we can work together towards a common national goal.

 Having said that let me hasten to say that SLAJ has also been receiving complaints from people of intimidation and harassment by journalists.

We call on those journalists who thrive on intimidation, harassment, blackmail, character assassination and attack-collect-and defend journalism to desist from such unprofessional and unethical practice. You have no place in our noble profession.

 

Community radio stations

Community radio stations play a very important role in ensuring information filters down to remote communities, but they face enormous challenges to be on air regularly and for which we have been appealing for the support of the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community.

 Nevertheless, these challenges will remain if these community radio stations do not serve the interest of the communities they operate. If you are a community radio station and yet you are serving the interest of a politician or political party other than the concerns of your community, then you are doing a disservice to your people and the nation.

 

SLAJ therefore urges the communities, the Boards, to take ownership of these community radio stations and make them meaningful to their cause.

 

Promoting professionalism

Beyond the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, our focus now is to strengthen professionalism in the media. That is why the theme for our 50th Anniversary is “Towards a free and professional media”. To achieve this, we need the support of every media stakeholder including the IMC, RAIC, MRCG, and international partners and CSOs.

 

So as part of our moves to bring more professionalism into our practice, SLAJ is pleased to announce that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has approved a project to promote professionalism in the Sierra Leonean media.

 

In addition, in the last three months, SLAJ had the opportunity to work with crisis communication experts at Bournemouth University in the UK, and we together undertake a rapid response national survey to assess the impact COVID-19 has had on our journalism industry. 

 

The findings of that national survey will be released on 5th of May 2021, but allow me to share one or two key thoughts that emerged from what our good friends at Bournemouth University have found:

 

i) Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on every of aspect of the news industry in Sierra Leone.

 

ii) A majority of journalists — more than 80% — were affected financially.

 

iii) It has also affected the mental wellbeing of high percentage of journalists, and disrupted news publishing significantly — at a time when journalists should be even more vigilant and active.

 

This situation must change. We know that a healthy, thriving news industry is at the heart of every good crisis response.

 

Over the next months, SLAJ will work with our friends at Bournemouth University to address this situation, and we call upon the government, NGOs and other likeminded organisations in joining us in our efforts.

 

Information as a public good

Meanwhile, the international theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Information as a public good’. Indeed, information is an essential commodity for the sustenance of our livelihoods and our functioning as democratic states. People need the correct information to be able to make informed decisions about their health, education, security, livelihoods and in choosing their leaders through periodic elections. When this is possible, the public good- peace and stability is maintained.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we want to look at the future role of the media and verified information. In 10 years’ time, the role of the media in providing accurate information, exposing corruption, holding public officials and governments to account, educating and raising awareness, etc. will not change much. What will change is the demand for greater responsibility of the media in combating fake news, hate speech, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, all of which have culminated into a raging media virus called infodemic.

Finally, let me urge our government and politicians to make a bold commitment to never again pass any law that will criminalise free speech, and I urge every journalist to aspire to be a true and patriotic professional.

THE SYMBOL OF PRESS FREEDOM!

Dear Friends, Colleagues!

May 3 is observed every year as International Press Freedom Day to remind us of the challenges journalists are faced with everyday in bringing the news to our doorstep. Many lives continue to be lost as ruthless and anti-democratic regimes clamp down on journalists with such brutal force, terror and death; simply bcos the journalist would like to know what’s beneath the Emperor’s clothes. These ruthless regimes have created a culture of silence and fear inorder to perpetually keep their oppressed people in total darkness from their evil and corrupt ways. But despite it all, a defiant and courageous press continues to prove beyond doubt; that truth has the power to shed light on the darkest pits and corners of our world; and so inspite of the contrivance of these monolithic regimes, yet no corner in the world has been left untouched by these journalists who take such steadfast personal risks to bring truth to light the world. I happen to be such a victim; and the most persecuted in the history of Salone journalism.

It was at Windhoek in Namibia, that prominent journalists from the African continent (at the forefront in fighting for press freedom and democracy), and the rest of the world media, were assembled by Unesco for the promotion of a free, independent and pluralistic press in Africa; and thereby resolved to declare May 3 as International Press Freedom Day. I was hoping to meet the Kenyan lawyer, Gitobu Nmanyara, a thorn in the flesh of the Kenyan government, but however, was to meet him during a press summit held by the EU in Brussels; where he received an award for his brave fight for freedom and justice in his home country. But I met many brave and fearless journalists including Pios Njawe of Cameroon, photo-journalist Mohamed Ali who died in a plane crash with Zambian players near Gabon and Sannah Mannah aka The Lion who was later killed by President Yayah Jammeh. Just before that Unesco  conference, it held the first journalist workshop in Freetown by Senegalese media consultant, Dr Abdul Rahman Cisse who told us that if Christ was alive today, he would’ve loved to be a journalist. This is true, since my struggles attest to the fact that regimes from Shaki in the early 80s to the present, have all put me in jail, detention, or shot during Bio’s junta during the struggle for the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in Salone; Dr Swee Chai Ang at the London Independent Hospital said it was a miracle I survived after undergoing multiple operations. The Kabbah SLPP jailed me twice- six months and four years consecutively, before seizing all my property illegally and subsequently pauperised. Indeed, the truth that comes from God and not that of the Evil political ethos leads to persecution just as Jesus, like His disciples suffered a similar fate. The same goes for honest and fearless journalists who in early times were mercilessly flogged, drawn by carts to stretch and broke all bones, before finally hanged and quartered and their body buried in the four corners of the world.

Indeed, journalism has come a long way from letter press and typewriter in the 80s and 90s to what it is today. The quality has also improved but still lacking in content, professionalism as well as investigative reporting. Most newspapers simply plagiarize nowadays especially from social media. Above all, journalists should desist to take sides but must be guided by the Truth which is the ethos of good journalism. My journey in taking the road not taken led me to the path of Christ and manifested in miracles and signs. It has led me and infact taught me the existence of spiritual journalism. On 13 October 2001, the Northcote Parkinson Fund whose chairman was the Soviet nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn, (who wrote The Gulag Archipelago and suffered untold persecutions under Stalinism), awarded me The Civil Courage Award; for fighting tyranny in Sierra Leone and for steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk. Today, it is known as The John Train Foundation and whose chairman The Rt Hon. John Train whose wife’s sister, was abducted by the rebels in Kambia in 97 and where I hail from, has gone thru beautification and canonized by the Church. 

Journalism has played a pivotal role as the Fourth Estate and societal watchdog, in standing up for the Truth and for enhancing excellence and professionalism in journalism; as well as in the fight for democracy, human rights and justice. Today, those sections of the defamatory and libel laws that criminalizes free speech have been expunged. It was for these laws that I was mostly persecuted by all regimes. Under Kabbah, For di People confronted the Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive arm which further resulted in a four year sentence, spending 13 months in solitary confinement. Today, that great struggle is etched in the catacombs of the law as in the case of The State v Paul Kamara which is the reference case for both seditious and defamatory libel laws in both Salone and the entire Commonwealth; just as the press led the democratic struggle in 96 and the civil disobedience movement against the AFRC-RUF in 97. It was at this time in solitary confinement that martyr Harry Yansaneh was murdered by the govt in whose lasting memory this sacred hall is named: The Harry Yansaneh Hall. May we now observe a minute silence on his behalf and all those journalists and writers who have paid the heavy price in the course of duty. While in solitary confinement, I had a vision for the second time in which Christ told me that it was for the same reason that He was persecuted and killed but that He is the Way, Truth and the Life. No wonder Dr Cisse did say so! I have found Jesus Christ! He is alive and is a Living God!

So as SLAJ observes this great Freedom Day, let us remember and adhere to our sacred responsibility by telling truth to power; for only the Truth shall conquer Evil and falsehood and set us free! SLAJ used to be a member of both the socialist-oriented International Organisation of Journalists IOJ and it’s western counterpart The International Federation of Journalists IFJ. As SLAJ secretary general, I attended the last IOJ Congress in Sofia, Bulgaria and an opportunity to visit several states under the USSR of premier Andropov. It was before the summit that we observed the sudden death of Nigerian journalist, Dele Giwa by a parcel bomb and fingers were pointed at President Babangida. I was there with veteran Gambia journalist, Deyda Hydara also killed by Jammeh as he did to Sannah Mannah the Lion. It is the same period that Zongo was killed in Burkina Faso and thus the Giwa-Zongo Magazine in their memory. But the journalist can also be a catalyst for peace for example our role in bringing peace to Salone when we linked the RUF to both Unamsil and the Commonwealth Office in London. Also bringing peace to the APC party to end the four year feud in 2007. In Sierra Leone, despite the libel laws are seemingly now in the back burner, yet the cyber laws hangs like the sword of Damocles on the heads of journalists. What you give with one hand, you take with the other. But I believe the press should continue to plod on until we get there.  In closing, let me pay my respect to those who have led and contributed to what SLAJ is today and especially For di People newspaper for producing four sec-gens- Paul Mandela Kamara, Richie Olu Gordon, Moses Kargbo and De Monk; including two presidents-Kelvin Lewis and now De Monk. Congratulations! Aluta Continua! God bless!

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