On Monday 13th July 2020, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, delivered a brief statement during the Pre-Legislative Session bordering on the Repeal of Part 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act to be replaced by the IMC Bill of 2020, which took place in the Well of Parliament.
Nasralla highlighted that as journalists our business in Parliament was to lobby Parliamentarians for two things. The first, he said, was to repeal the Criminal Libel laws and pass the new IMC Bill and secondly to amend certain sections of the IMC Bill which is before them in order to bring it into conformity with the spirit and letters of the 1991 Constitution.
The SLAJ President highlighted that on the International level the Criminal Libel laws are an embarrassment to this country, and it will continue to be so until Parliamentarians repeal them.
“For several sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where it periodically Reviews our Human Rights records, our country’s representatives have been called out that we are in breach of several International treaties among which are, The International Convention on Human and People’s Rights, The African Charter on Human and People’s rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to name just a few. Today we begin the process of ending the embarrassment for our diplomatic representatives who sit quietly and sometimes bow their heads in shame as they are spoken down upon,” he reasoned out.
Nasralla made a strong point by stating that we know everybody wants the media to develop but to say the “blackmail and corruption” that Legislators accuse the media of, can be minimized, if not end, if the media practitioners are paid well.
He justified that assertion by underscoring that such can only happen if the door is opened to businessmen to invest in the media furthering that as it stands any businessman who dares to invest in the media, stands the risk of going to jail for what his reporter might have written.
“We say remove the Criminal libel laws and allow the economic forces to regulate,” he appealed adding that in that way any businessman who invests over a hundred million Leones in the media will promptly sack any errant editor who publishes anything that would cause him the Proprietor to be taken to court and fined.
He maintained that such is self -regulation and that is the conversation which led to the setting up of the IMC in 2000.
Among so many other related issues he raised, the SLAJ President ended up by stating that in every profession there are bad eggs from Politics to Police, from Teachers to Lawyers and Engineers, from Surgeons to Statesmen. He highlighted that what media practitioners are asking Parliamentarians to do is not to throw out the “baby with the birth water”.
“The water is dirty but the baby has life and will grow. Help us make that baby grow. We are in this together,” Nasralla further appealed philosophically.