The leadership of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has been keenly following events unfolding around the electoral process which, to the utter dismay of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans, have been marred by physical violence orchestrated largely by the leaders of the various political parties contesting the August 11 elections.
This development is totally unacceptable as it has the potential to reverse the peace and tranquility Sierra Leoneans shed so much blood and tears for; and the collective gains made so far.
Elections by every standard are a contest not a combat or platform to trade in insults or unwholesome activities.
What has come out clearly from these violent confrontations is that the leaders of these political parties have not been able to control their unruly supporters which calls to question their ability to lead this nation should they win next month’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
SLAJ is of the view that if politicians who aspire to rule this nation can not instill order within their ranks, the bulk of the public have every reason to doubt the ability of these politicians to rule a nation of complex and diverse people like ours.
We are further disturbed by reports that children as young as 10 are being recruited by these politicians and engage them in acts that are inimical to the conduct of a free and peaceful election; thus reminding Sierra Leoneans of the days of the brutal civil war when children were forced to use weapons to terrorise innocent people.
SLAJ, a major player in the electoral process, condemns in no uncertain terms these negative developments, and calls on all political parties to be mindful of the Code of Conduct they signed with the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and their pledge to abide by it to ensure a peaceful conduct of the forthcoming elections.
SLAJ will not hesitate to expose or denounce any politician who embarks on acts of violence or incites supporters to disturb the peace of law-abiding citizens.
In the same vein, SLAJ admonishes all journalists to abide by the March 17, 2007 SLAJ/UN Media Code of Conduct for Coverage and Reporting of the Elections in order to remain neutral and report fairly and objectively, thereby providing a level playing field for all political actors. SLAJ counts on the cooperation of every Sierra Leonean to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections come August 11.