Past Friday the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) observed its 38 years of existence and its President Umaru Fofana called on the Supreme Court to deliver its ruling on the interpretation and repealing of the 1965 Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws.
In his statement, the SLAJ President noted that “on Tuesday 9th June, the ninety-day period allowed for the verdict will expire. “We hope we will get a verdict before this deadline”. He appealed to all Sierra Leoneans and friends of Sierra Leone including foreign missions to ensure the repeal of this law which was bad yesterday, still bad today, and will remain bad even tomorrow.”
President Fofana used the opportunity to send a strong message to his colleagues saying, “As we remember this day, I want to remind all of us that it is unfair for the souls of our departed colleagues and the sacrifices they made that we sometimes use our media to castigate each other.”
“This kind of practice can only weaken our efforts to achieve a free press without a Criminal and Seditious Libel Law and with an access to Information Law. Where we disagree with each other based on issues, we should let our reactions be limited to these issues only. I believe
strongly that ours is probably the only country where journalists insult and sometimes use unprintable language against each other for simply disagreeing on an issue” he added.
However, he noted, “we are strengthening the capacity of the SLAJ Disciplinary Committee headed by Samuel B. Conteh, to be handling grievances of journalists rather than insulting themselves in newspapers, on the airwaves or to the Independent Media Commission, and depriving reader s of what they really paid for when they buy a newspaper, or listen to a radio station.”
He lauded the founding fathers like Sam Metzger, Daisy Bona, Bernadette Cole, Christo Johnson, Joseph Findlay, Alhaji Saramady Kabba, Patrick Sogie-Thomas, Prince Nicol, Roland Buck, Dr Sam Hollist and Josephine Hazeley.
Also Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, Olu Awoonor-Gordon, Pious Foray, Paul Kamara, Rod Mac-Johnson, Unisa Sesay, Jeffrey Spring, Frank Kposowa, Joshua Nicol, Isaac Massaquoi and Dr Julius Spencer .
President Fofana emphasized that “We the younger generation of journalists owe a great deal to these colleagues, who have at different times and under sometimes very difficult circumstances, proved that Freedom of the Press is not for governments or military juntas to attempt to take away from us.