Civil War over but war against journalists continues in Sierra Leone
Freetown â€“ The President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Umaru Fofana says the civil war in Sierra Leone may have ended eight years ago but that there is a sustained war against the countryâ€™s journalists.
Speaking in Cadiz, Spain at the 27th Congress of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Fofana said the world must come to the aid of Sierra Leonean journalists â€œwho continue to be harassed, intimidated and threatened with death by the security forces, Government agents, opposition militants and traditionalistsâ€. He said the end of the bloody civil war in the country which killed several journalists should not take the eyes of the world off the plight of its journalists.
â€œWe face a clear and present danger today especially with a stagnating economy that cannot absorb the countryâ€™s youth and has led to some of them becoming freelance bandits for rogue political elements,â€ Fofana told the congress of over 300 journalists and media rights campaigners from over 100 countries around the world.
He cited the unlawful arrest of four female journalists by members of the traditional Bondo society on allegations of reporting on female genital mutilation, the beating-up of journalists by supporters of the opposition Sierra Leone Peopleâ€™s Party, the attack on journalists and stabbing of one by supporters of Government, the constant harassment of a journalist by a Government Minister, a death threat against him by supporters of a former Government minister standing trial on corruption allegations, among others.
The SLAJ President said that with national and municipal elections due in a little over two years, the stakes would get higher for politicians who might use all sorts of uncivilised tactics to thwart the effective practice of journalists. He spoke of the politicisation of the media as well as attempts by business interests to influence the editorial content of especially newspapers.
Fofana urged the IFJ to intervene in Sierra Leone with its Ethical Journalism project to provide training for journalists on the need for and how to practice their trade for the public good rather than political or business interests.
The 4-day congress ends on Friday 28 May. ÂSigned Ismael Koroma, National Assistant Secretary General, SLAJ
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