After presenting a petition letter yesterday to the Ombudsman against the Supreme Court and the Inspector General’s office, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Umaru Fofana spoke to journalists to prove to the Inspector General of Police that journalists are not the hoodlums he thought they are.
This statement comes after the Police chief denied journalists their right to a peaceful protest march. Journalists assembled in front of the Ombudsman’s office at Siaka Stevens Street and presented a copy of the protest letter to the Ombudsman Hon. Justice Edmund Cowan. Umaru Fofana further told journalists to prove to the Inspector General that they are civilized , educated and professionals people.
Presenting the petition letter to the Ombudsman, the SLAJ President said “We are here this morning to call your attention to the fundamental violations of our rights by the Supreme Court and by the Inspector General of Police. In the case of the Supreme Court, we took a matter to the court for arbitration for them to give interpretation of a law that we feel is inconsistent with our Constitution or at least some provisions thereof, and the Supreme Court, contrary to the dictates of the Constitution have up till now not given us a ruling”
About the Inspector General of Police, the SLAJ President said “ We informed him that we wanted to go on a peaceful protest march to come to your office, to go to the office of the President and deliver a letter of petition against the Supreme Court’s inaction in our case” he told the Ombudsman.
The SLAJ President also stated that he had a copy of a letter to the President Koroma drawing his attention to two breaches of the journalists’ fundamental rights.
He emphasized: “It is not a protest march; it is simply a meeting to come and have the opportunity to give to you a copy of the letter that will be given to the President”
Receiving the copy, the Ombudsman Justice Edmund Cowan remarked “I will look at it and if I have to get back to you then I will surely do that. But for now, I think I will have to wait until the outcome of your handing over of your letter to the President and see what happens”
“I cannot do anything now. I am the institution of last result when all else fails, then there is a complaint to the Ombudsman but for now nothing has … a letter has just been sent to the President and we will wait and see”, the Ombudsman said.
Assistant Superintendent of Police James Clarke cautioned the journalists on security grounds to disperse peacefully to avoid any clash with the police.
The petition letter reminded that in February 2008, SLAJ took a matter to the Supreme Court seeking interpretation and repeal of the Criminal and Seditious Libel Law of the Public Order Act of 1965 which is considered to be inconsistent with the 1991 Constitution.
The letter also indicated that on March 9, 2009 final arguments on the case were closed but the Supreme Court acted contrary to the Constitution for not delivering a ruling.
The letter also explained how the Inspector General of Police denied the journalists the right to process peacefully whilst calling on the President to intervene by guaranteeing a ruling and to a peaceful protest.