Thousands of newsmen and women in Sierra Leone have awarded President Julius Maada Bio has Champion of Press Freedom.
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) recognised the first gentleman as the Champion of Press Freedom following his efforts in making sure that virtually all the decades old draconian laws killing Press Freedom have been expunged from the country’s law books.
It can be recalled that the president recently repealed Part 5 of the 1965 draconian Seditious Libel Law an effort by journalists that has been frustrated by past presidents of the country.
Successive governments have been jailing journalists and/or fining them huge sums of money for publishing or making statements that of dissenting views to them.
Being a very patriotic and democratic president, Bio has decided to give the press the will to operate.
“I want to start by congratulating SLAJ on the celebration of their Golden Jubilee Anniversary. This is a great milestone for any professional group. But what makes it interesting is the fact that we certainly did this together at a time when we have just repealed Part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965.” Bio stated.
He continued that Free Press was enshrined in his New Direction Manifesto.
President Bio also made it very clear that he is never afraid of dissenting views and he continued that may be that is one reason why he was never afraid to really take on the challenge.
He also used the opportunity to extend his gratitude to the Minister of Information and Communications Mohamed Rahman Swaray, who has been tenacious, who he said believed in what he said (as President).
The president continued that despite the many obstacles he came across, he held on it. He therefore thanked him and the leadership of the ministry.
President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla wished the president had attended their Golden Jubilee AGM in Bo city to receive the Press Freedom Award in Person.
“We had wanted the whole national and regional executives as well as the entire membership of SLAJ to physically join in expressing our profound thanks and appreciation for the repeal of the criminal libel laws”.
SLAJ president continued that the criminal libel law was used 99% by successive governments and politicians to muzzle the media and intimidate and incarcerate journalists to escape being held to account and to clamp down on dissenting views.
He added that the law prevented women from coming into the journalism profession and aspired for leadership positions in the media industry, while also private sector investment in the media and rendering the industry poor.