State House, Freetown, 4 December 2019 – The new executive of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, SLAJ, has met His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio for the first time to commend government’s efforts at repealing Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act that criminalises libel.
Presenting the team at State House, Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, said that they were meeting the President to present the new SLAJ executive which was a product of free, fair and transparent elections.
President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said that they recognise the commitment of government towards the repeal of the criminal libel law, saying that for the first time in the history of the fight against the law, it had now gained cabinet approval. He commended the President for that and noted that the repeal would set the stage for private sector investment into the media.
“We want to commend Your Excellency for marching your words with action and we believe that the repeal of the criminal libel law will help to create a turnaround for the more responsible and productive media. Let me also thank you for the various appointments you have allocated to some of our colleagues in the media and for the annual subvention that you promised which we have started receiving,” he said.
On his part, President Julius Maada Bio congratulated the new executive and commended the outgone executive for a smooth transition, noting that the media being a critical voice in society must be part of the governance process. He said that it was a collective responsibility to ensure that democracy and development thrived in order to fix the nation.
He also stated that it was a joint responsibility of all other stakeholders, not only journalists, to work together to identify the critical challenges in society and to also prescribe solutions that were sustainable. He said constructive criticism was an important part of any democratic process because it provided the necessary checks and balances and also led to accountability.
“The repeal process has gone so far. People have to be mindful on how they use the media to ensure that they are not misused because people are mindful and sensitive to their reputation. As the representative group, you have to be mindful and make sure that it is not misused because reputations are difficult to build but very easy to destroy,” he said.
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