2023 Elections: What You Need to Know About the New Early Voting Law

 By: Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

In March this year, parliament passed a law on early voting. This is the first time the electoral body, Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, has had a law on early voting.  Unlike in other countries where such laws are passed for essential workers on election day, Sierra Leone passed the law for those going for religious pilgrimage.

What is the Context?

Advocacy for early voting started as far back as in February, when the Minister of Social Welfare, Baindu Dassama, raised concerns that 1,200 people performing the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage could not vote because they would be in Saudi Arabia during elections.

ECSL took on major reforms last year when it passed the New Public Elections Act, but early voting was not included.

This year’s election will coincide with Muslims’ visit to Mecca for their religious rites. The annual pilgrimage is important for Muslims in Sierra Leone because the government funds many of those who travel for the expedition.

 

What is in the New Early Voting law?

 This early voting law is specifically for religious pilgrims. Certainly, the first beneficiaries will be the over 1,000 Muslim pilgrims heading to Mecca this June.

To qualify for the privilege, the law states, “He/she is of either Islam or Christian faith who will be out of Sierra Leone on a pilgrimage and would be absent from Sierra Leone on the day scheduled for voting.”

Applicants must be registered to vote and must also be recorded in the district where they are applying for early voting to the Returning Officer, according to the law.

Section 4 of the law explains what happens throughout all the stages, including developing a register for early voters, excluding their names from the main voter register and ensuring the process is not abused by preventing them from voting on the general election day.

A screenshot of section 4 of the law

 

The new law now means ECSL has a bit more to do. The election has already started, following the conduct and conclusion of Paramount Chief Members of Parliament last week. With three weeks to go, how ECSL will handle this new challenge remains to be seen.

 

This Public Education Article is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens to have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

#U Don Chek Am?  Na 4 Chek Am!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEWARE

Beware of Fake Websites and Social Media Handles

By: Mabinty M. Kamara

As elections draw nearer, social media will be flooded with fake websites, links, and social media handles programmed to propagate the three unholy Trinity of Disinformation, Misinformation, and Mal-information, creating chaos and confusion in the public’s minds.

Politicians and Institutions such as the Electoral Commission Sierra Leone (ECSL), the National Elections Watch (NEW) and bilateral organisations such as embassies are possible targets for digital impersonation. You will see critical statements on the electioneering processes and purported election results.

Beware!

A fake website created to impersonate ECSL’s Job advertisement portal

 

How to identify fake websites

The identity of a website is called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), also known as a link. 

 Let’s take, for example, the URL, or web address, of the Sierra Leone Association for Journalists: 

 https://www.slaj.sl/   – This Website has a protocol (Https://) Sub Domain Name (www.) and the Domain Name (slaj) and the Top level domain and country code (.sl/) 

Note: Any website that has two domain names is fake and in that case, the second domain is the real domain whiles the first is the impersonated one.

For instance, the link Https://jobs.ec.sl.programmeagency.info/?m=1 is fake because it has two domain names jobs.ec.sl and programmeagency.info.

In this case, the actual domain name is “programmeagency.info” and not “job.ec.sl:”

The real website, therefore, is: https://ecslonlinejob.ec.gov.sl

 

Tips: The Domain name is the most important part of a website and it represents the name of the organization/institution or the person who owns the website. In this case, the domain name is ECSL.

If you want to verify if a link is genuine, you can always type in Google search –the name of the domain from the link you have, and compare if the URL matches with that which you are verifying.

 

This Public Education article is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens to have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

 

 The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

 #U Don Chek Am? Na 4 Chek Am!

    

    

    

 

 

Ballot box

Why Are We Going to Use Four Ballot Papers on Election Day?

By Mabinty M. Kamara 

The 2023 election is barely a month away but preparation for that started a long time ago. Like previous general elections, this is a multi-tier elections but there are major differences compared to the last three elections Sierra Leone has had.

For the first time since 2002, Sierra Leone will be using the Proportional Representation system. So how will this impact the election?

According to the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL), four elections will be held on the same day. Every voter will have to vote for President, Councillor, Mayor/Chairpersons and Members of Parliament.

One ballot paper will be used for the Presidential election, another one will be used to vote for Mayor/Chairpersons, the third ballot paper will be used to vote for Councillors and the fourth ballot paper will be used to vote for Parliamentarians.

The Director of External Relations and Public Education at the ECSL, Albert Massaquio said:  “We have four different elections. Every voter is going to have four different ballots. You vote for president separately, you vote for MP separately, you vote for Mayor/Chairperson separately and you vote for Councillor separately. The only difference between the 2018 elections and now is that for MPs and Councillors, we are using the PR system.”

Faces will only be used on the ballot paper for Presidential and Mayor/Chairperson elections. And only party and other symbols will be used for Councilors and MPs.

This Voter Education article is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens to have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

 

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

 

#U Don Chek Am? Na 4 Chek Am!

 

The image purportedly shows Samura Kamara and Yvonne Aki-Sawyer gazing at a stripper. 

  The Photo of Samura Kamara Looking at a Stripper Is Misleading

By Julian Koroma

CLAIM: An image posted by K TOWN BLOG purportedly shows the APC presidential candidate Samura Wilson Kamara and Mayoral candidate Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr staring at a dancing stripper.

VERDICT: MISLEADING! The original image was doctored.

Methodology: 

Last week, a blog known as  K TOWN BLOG posted an image of Samura Kamara, Yvonne Aki-Sawyyer, and other key All People’s Congress (APC) stakeholders staring at a stripper while smiling. The said photo was also shared widely on WhatsApp.

The caption of the photo stated: “Na this wan bi President?”…

The blog in question has a history of posting disinformation as can be seen in another instance where they also posted a picture of a red and white building on fire, claiming it was the APC office and it was on fire.

The page has a very small following, but it is also littered with hate speech and a lot of disinformation that could cause problems in the future.

To fact-check this, the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom team looked online for the original image and also tried to keenly observe inconsistencies in the picture.

A very close observation is that the Samnura Kamara image in question was photoshopped. A quick zoom-in on the picture shows an image where APC’s presidential and mayoral candidates were standing at a particular angle was cropped and placed in a photo where some men in a club were gazing at a strip dancer.

A zoom-in shot of the picture 

A keen observation of this zoom-in shot shows the man with the red cap’s shirt does not match the bottom part of the image. And a close inspection of the angle of the presidential aspirant Samura Wilson Kamara’s gaze does not match the angle where the striper is bending.

The top of the Samura Kamara photo was taken and then merged with the bottom half of the stripper photo. Further observation also showed that the few people on the left were in no way connected to the Samura Kamara photo, they were the original onlookers of the stripper, while Samura and others were looking forward, instead of downwards.

Conclusion: The image is misleading. Samura Kamara and Yvonne Aki-Swayerr were not looking at a stripper as the picture was purporting.

This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens to have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

 

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

 U Don Chek Am? Na 4 Chek Am!

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of Victor Foh speaking at an SLPP event this year.

Sierra Leone’s Education is No.1, Victor Foh Claims. FALSE.

By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

 

Claim: Former Vice President, Victor Foh claimed that Sierra Leone’s education is currently number one in the world.

Verdict: False, there is no evidence to back his claim.

Methodology

In a recent event held by the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) in Sierra Leone, former Vice President, Victor Foh, claimed that Sierra Leone’s educational system is currently rated number one in the world. The claim, which was broadcasted by Sierra Network TV, has now garnered over 1,500 views on Facebook.

In the video, Foh said (between 0:46 – 0:54 seconds of the video) that: “We were joking with our own education, but now we are first in the world, in the educational system.”

To fact-check Victor Foh’s comment the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom team watched through credible data sources. According to World Education Ranking, a site that aggregates data from leading UN agencies on education, Sierra Leone has improved on some indicators but Sierra Leone is still far away from being at the top. Sierra Leone is ranked 146.

The ranking considers the average years of education among the adult population and the expected years of schooling for students under 25 years old.

2022 data from the Right to Education Index also showed some good progress for Sierra Leone on education, on several indicators. However, this data did not in any way prove Foh’s claim that Sierra Leone’s education is now number one.

 Conclusion: Claim by Victor Foh that Sierra Leone’s education is number one in the world is FALSE.

NOTE:

This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

 

U Don Chek Am? Na 4 Chek Am!

IMG_0065

SLAJ Kicks Off Irish Aid-Supported Project on Expanding the Democratic Space in Sierra Leone

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President SLAJ
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President SLAJ

 By: Christian Conteh

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in partnership with the Independent Radio Network (IRN), the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Inter-Religious Council Sierra Leone (IRCSL) in its capacity as lead implementing partner has officially launched the project titled ‘Expanding the Democratic Space in Sierra Leone – Media Capacity Enhancement to Promote Peaceful Elections, Women’s Participation, Public Interest and Conflict Mitigation’ in Sierra Leone’s June 24th, 2023 elections.

The project, which is funded by Irish Aid (Embassy of Ireland in Sierra Leone), aims to provide an enabling environment for media operations and foster informed and inclusive citizens’ participation in peaceful elections processes nationwide. The official launch event took place on Wednesday, May 17th, 2023, at the Civil Service Training College on Tower Hill in Freetown.

During the launch, Ransford Wright, the National Coordinator of the Independent Radio Network, emphasized the significance of enhancing professionalism among journalists within the framework of the project. Wright highlighted that IRN’s activities would focus on objective and impartial reporting, stating that, the media plays an important role in information dissemination.

“Radio still remains the most effective means of getting information. At least 60 to 70% of the population access radio,” Wright said.

He expressed his appreciation to Irish Aid for their support, recognising radio’s crucial role in delivering vital information to remote villages.

Wright also emphasised the potential dangers of misinformation, stating, that misinformation can cause fear and violence.

“In response, IRN plans to utilise its innovative simulcast approach by connecting 50 radio stations across the country. On election day, IRN will provide 24 hours of continuous broadcast, deploying 550 reporters to deliver real-time updates on the electoral process. Additionally, IRN intends to establish three desks for national results and analysis and integrating programming through social media platforms to disseminate credible information,” Wright said.

Khalil Kallon, the Executive Secretary of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), expressed his enthusiasm for being part of the project. Kallon highlighted the IMC’s commitment to reviewing regulations and developing a comprehensive document dedicated solely to election coverage.

The IMC, he said, plans to deploy rapid response teams across the country to monitor media institutions and promptly address any breaches, with a focus on enhancing professional media conduct.

“We seek to enhance professional media conduct; we do not seek to control the media,” he maintained.

Reverend Dr. Usman Jessie Fornah, the General Secretary of the Inter-Religious Council, expressed gratitude to Irish Aid for the opportunity to contribute to a violence-free election. He highlighted the council’s role as the “moral guarantors of the state” and their expertise in social mobilisation and peace mediation.

Fornah announced that the Council would conduct training programs for religious leaders in violence-prone areas, equipping them with conflict management and conflict-sensitive reporting skills. The Council also aims to engage local communities in violent prevention initiatives, empowering them to address conflicts promptly without relying solely on central authorities.

Fornah underscored the Council’s commitment to monitoring and intervening in conflict situations during the electoral process.

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, the President of SLAJ, outlined the Association’s role in advocating for freedom of expression, improving working conditions for journalists, and enhancing their capacity.

“We shall provide training on gender-sensitive reporting in 8 districts, targeting at least 40 journalists per district,” Nasralla said.

He emphasised the specific focus on empowering women journalists and the establishment of the SLAJ gender advisory panel, which will address gender-related issues within the association. Nasralla also mentioned leveraging social media to promote media regulations and the production of voter education and peace message flyers.

Ambassador Claire Buckley
Ambassador Claire Buckley

In her keynote address, Ambassador Claire Buckley reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to enhancing media capacity and promoting peaceful elections in Sierra Leone. She acknowledged the crucial role of media and faith-based institutions in addressing tensions caused by hate speech and misinformation. Ambassador Buckley emphasised the importance of a free and independent media that holds duty bearers accountable and fosters meaningful debates. The project aims to ensure effective coverage, transparency, and integrity in the electoral process while promoting policy-based discussions.

“We believe that this project will contribute to focusing the elections discourse on policies rather than personality, substance rather than regional and tribal rhetoric. We hope it will support effective coverage and overall transparency as well as the integrity of the electoral process, including promoting the plurality of views across political divides. Most important of all, we believe that it will promote media engagement in the elections in an independent, impartial and professional manner,” Buckley said.

The project launch signifies a significant step towards strengthening the media landscape in Sierra Leone and fostering a peaceful and inclusive electoral process with the collaboration of various stakeholders and the support of Irish Aid.

 

 

Photo of Dr. Samura Kamara, Presidential Candidate All Peoples Congress (APC).

TRUE: Samura Kamara’s Candidacy Has Been Petitioned

By: Christian Conteh

Claim: Two members of the All People’s Congress Party (APC), former Sports Minister Paul Kamara and former Sierra Leone Deputy Ambassador to the US Hon Alimamy Coleson Turay have filed an application in court questioning the legality of Dr. Samura Kamara’s candidacy as flagbearer and Presidential candidate of the main opposition.

Verdict: TRUE.

Paul Kamara and Hon Alimamy Coleson Turay have filed an application for constructions, interpretation and determination to Sections 35 (4) and 76 (1) D of the national constitution 1991, Act No. 6 of 1991.

Full Text: Court documents, which have gone viral on social media platforms such as Twitter, WhatsApp, and Facebook, indicate that Paul Kamara and Alimamy Coleson Turay, both members of the APC, have raised concerns about Dr. Samura Kamara’s eligibility to contest the June 24, 2023, Presidential Election.

The documents reveal their intention to seek a determination from the court regarding the legality of the Transitional Interim Independent Election Management (TIIEM) conducting the APC National Delegates Convention in Makeni from February 17 to 19, 2023, where Dr. Samura Kamara was elected as the party’s presidential candidate.

Additionally, they question whether the findings of the Commission of Inquiry and the pending criminal case related to the alleged embezzlement of funds meant for the renovation of the Sierra Leone UN Mission Chancery in New York, USA, in which Dr. Kamara is one of the accused, should have been considered by the Elections Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) during the nomination of Dr. Samura Kamara as the APC’s presidential candidate.

The application seeks constructions, interpretation, and determination of Sections 35 (4) and 76 (1) D of the national constitution 1991, Act No. 6 of 1991.

Many people have shared this claim prompting a need for a fact-check.

Methodology: Given the viral nature of the claim across various social media platforms, SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom decided to contact Paul Kamara, the first applicant. He confirmed in a telephone conversation that, “Yes, it is me Paul Kamara, I have taken the matter to the Supreme Court for determination.”

The ECSL, the body charged with the responsibility to conduct elections and register candidates for the elections, is the second respondent while its Chairman and Chief Electoral Commissioner is the first respondent.

The researcher on 19th May 2023 spoke to Albert Massaquoi, Director of External Relations at ECSL. He confirmed that indeed his institution (ECSL) has received letters from the supreme court informing them of a matter to which they are a party. The letter, he says, confirms the claim above. “What I can say is the commission has received a letter from the Supreme Court about the matter,” Massaquoi says.

Conclusion: The claim that Paul Kamara and Hon Alimamy Coleson Turay have filed an application in court questioning the legality of Dr. Samura Kamara’s Candidacy as flagbearer of the APC is true.

Copy of Originating Notice of Motion circulating on Social Media.

NOTE:

This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

U Don Chek Am? Na 4 Chek Am!

A screenshot of the front page of the Exclusive newspaper publication carrying the false claims.

Claims in Exclusive Newspaper about ECSL and US Marine deployment for Sierra Leone’s Elections are FALSE

By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

Claim: Exclusive Newspaper, last week published a story claiming that:

Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) invited 1500 ECOMOG soldiers and US Marines to deploy for Sierra Leone’s June 24 elections.

Verdict: The claim is FALSE.

Methodology

On the 12th of May, 2023, Exclusive Newspaper published a story in their daily edition claiming that US Marines and ECOMOG among others have been invited by ECSL to observe the elections.

There are at least three claims in this story:

i) 1500 ECOMOG will deploy,

ii) US Marines will deploy, and

iii) ECSL invited both ECOMOG and US Marines among others to deploy.

The first paragraph of the story claimed that ECSL invited international organizations to observe the elections. The second paragraph continued by stating that:

“Some of the invitees are one thousand five hundred (1500) soldiers from the ECOWAS Monitoring group – ECOMOG, seventy-eight (78) European Union observers, some US Marines and thirty (30) observers from the Carter Center in the United States of America.”

Online news site Sierraloaded also published a similar story and apart from the headline (‘ECOMOG to monitor 2023 elections in Sierra Leone’) being false, the content was also completely disconnected from the title.

To verify this claim, SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom fact-checkers contacted the United States Embassy in Freetown. According to the Embassy, US Marines will not be deployed to Sierra Leone for the general elections.

“While the U.S. Embassy is excited to participate as ECSL accredited international observers for the upcoming general elections, these observers will be selected among our own embassy staff. The U.S. is not deploying marines to observe Sierra Leone’s elections,” Paul Stucky, Ag. Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Freetown said.

ECOWAS was also contacted on whether ECOMOG will be deploying to Sierra Leone for the elections. ECOWAS Communications Director, Amos Lungu said he had no knowledge on whether the Commission will be deploying its “standby force”, which was once referred to as ECOMOG.

However, to further inquire about the veracity of the claim about foreign troops deployment, the team also contacted the Office of National Security (ONS), which is the umbrella body for the security sector in Sierra Leone.

The Director of Strategic Communications and Spokesman of ONS, Abdul Karim Will said there are no plans for foreign troops deployment in the country.

“So far, we are not aware of any foreign troops deployment in Sierra Leone, neither ECOMOG nor US Marine. There are no plans for foreign military troops deployment,” the ONS Spokesman said. Karim said since 2007, Sierra Leone’s security sector had taken charge of securing public elections.

To verify the claim about ECSL’s invitation of US Marines and ECOMOG, the team contacted the Director of External Relations at ECSL, Albert Massaquoi, who said they did not send any invitation to US Marines or ECOMOG to deploy for the June 24 elections.

Conclusion:

US Marines will not be deployed to Sierra Leone.

There’s no proof to show that “1500 ECOMOG” will deploy to Sierra Leone.

ECSL did not invite US Marines or ECOMOG to observe the elections.

NOTE:

This fact-checked story is a product of the SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom on Combating Disinformation in Sierra Leone’s 2023 electoral cycle. The project is supported by Global Affairs Canada to enable citizens have access to credible and accurate information during the elections.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

U Don Chek Am?  Na 4 Chek Am!

 

 

 

SLAJ-President-Ahmed-Sahid-Nasralla-scaled-1600x900

The SALT Manifesto 2019

The SALT Manifesto

SLAJ Elections 2019

Presidential Candidate: Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)

This Manifesto is in sync with the priority concerns of journalists in Sierra Leone.

When we visited media houses to declare my intention to run for president in the 2019 Elections, we engaged our colleagues and asked what their concerns were as practitioners and what kind of leadership they desired. What we have put together here is a manifesto which resonates with the feedbacks we got from the majority of journalists.

So, from those concerns, we decided to prioritise four (4) key issues that are close to the heart of every journalist in Sierra Leone: WELFARE, GENDER, MENTORSHIP and UNITY & INDEPENDENCE.

 

  1. WELFARE

These are trying times for the media in Sierra Leone. Media houses are generally struggling to survive as businesses. Consequently, the welfare needs of journalists and their conditions of service are challenging and growing. This is also having an impact on the quality of journalism in the country. If we have to work towards achieving independent and professional journalism, we need to give full attention to the working conditions of journalists and the viability of media businesses.

I am very happy to learn that journalists have entered for and completed courses in various areas apart from Mass Communications. With their experience in the field they can use their disciplines to specialise for example in public health reporting, development journalism, peace and conflict reporting, environment reporting and business journalism.

My Executive will look at journalists’ welfare and working conditions from two angles: legal and economic.

On the legal side, it is against the law for employers to pay their workers below the minimum wage. The law also requires payment of tax to NRA and a social security contribution to NASSIT for their employees.

On the economic side, media houses argue that business is bad and that incomes don’t match expenditure. In other words, it is not profitable. This, they have linked with low advertising revenues (perhaps the lowest in the sub-region) and sales. For the top five to six media houses, it is estimated that annually they have to write off up to Le 500 million in unpaid advertising bills. With this situation and the over-reliance on traditional revenue streams, demanding improved conditions of service for journalists without a corresponding support to media businesses would be counterproductive.

While my Executive would not promise a quick fix solution, or resolving the welfare and media viability issues entirely, we would confront this perennial challenge in a holistic manner. We would do the following:

  • I will encourage media owners to set up a Media Owners’ Association (MOA).
  • My Executive shall bring together all the stakeholders (SLAJ, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG, the Labour Congress, Ministry of Labour, WIMSAL, the Sierra Leone Reporters Union (SLRU), the MOA, relevant Government agencies and other partners)to begin anengagement process that would inform the next steps in addressing this challenge.
  • We are aware of MRCG’s efforts in helping media houses set up structures that are conducive for the viability of the media. We wish to engage more and play a more active role to support these efforts. At the level of the MRCG, of which SLAJ and its affiliate bodies are key components, efforts are also already underway towards helping media houses in the area of professional management and resource mobilization to enable them be well structured and financially viable.
  • My Executive shall deepen our engagement with the IMC. We shall work with the IMC to create a platform for the Commission to have conversations with the media and seek to understand the challenges and opportunities for ethical and professional journalism. I will work with the IMC to dedicate more time and resources to working with the media to understand and discuss their challenges and together find sustainable solutions.
  • I will talk to debt recovery firms whose responsibility it is to go after debtors and recover monies owed to media houses. The process is safe, efficient, fast and it saves our colleagues the stress of hiring a lawyer to go to court. Most importantly, I will engage these firms to agree on a reasonable percentage fee they take on each recovery so that media houses get most of their monies back which otherwise could have left unpaid.

Beyond that, my executive will urge media owners to maintain a system within their organisations that guarantees payment for published adverts to ensure sustainability.

 

  1. GENDER

I recognize that gender inequality is a major challenge in media. While we acknowledge that discrimination, harassment and inequality on the basis of gender are not limited to the media, SLAJ must make it a priority to deal with these issues within the media.

This is why my Executive shall make gender a priority.

The media is male dominated; in terms of ownership and representation in leadership positions across individual media institutions as well as SLAJ and its affiliate bodies.

Out of a total of 546 members only 124 are women.

We see significant changes in the electronic media, but the print media still has a long way to go.

How many women do we have as Station Managers/Editors? How many women media owners do we have?

Women in the media suffer unequal distribution of assignments in the newsroom. The male reporters are given assignments to cover hard news while female reporters are given soft beats. Gender sensitive reporting in the media is low.

These are only a few of the challenges our female colleagues face, and my Executive shall ensure that:

  • We work with our colleagues in WIMSAL and other pro-women groups to support our female colleagues to take their rightful place in SLAJ and in the media. While we do not have control over the employment policies of media houses, my Executive shall support efforts aimed at formulating policies that make the newsroom more conducive for our female colleagues.
  • I will encourage media houses to adopt gender policies within management level and in the newsroom.
  • We have among us not only practicing journalists, but also some of the brightest minds in media education and research. Some of them have done extensive research on gender in the media. My Executive will continue to put such works into use, organize events that popularize their findings and recommendations, while we continue to promote research, learning and conversations around gender because it is only when we educate ourselves that we would be able to change our mindset on discrimination based on gender.
  • My Executive shall work with WIMSAL and other groups and organisations to increase training and capacity building on gender issues for women, but more importantly our male colleagues. If we are to tackle inequality, it is important that all are adequately educated and are on the same page. We will also increase access to training and other opportunities for women specifically.
  • My Executive shall promote investment in and support formore females in the association and the profession in general. I will make as a centerpiece of my tenure the rebranding of the profession to be more inclusive and a friendly space for young females to aspire to.
  • My Executive shall support affirmative action policies to increase the voices of females in the sector and to ensure that they can thrive. I will invest in reviewing policies, processes and opportunities that engenderbias and discrimination and make sure we move towards a more gender equitable association.
  • My Executive shall work to transform the way gender and women are reported and represented in the media. I will be a credible spokesperson and champion against rape and sexual violence and work to ensure that our colleagues have the resources and training to report on these issues with professionalism, and in ways that do no further harm to the survivors.
  • My Executive shall set up a gender advisory panel that would comprise members and people from civil society to advise on gender and conduct periodic gender audits that inform the way we formulate policies. This panel shall also work to conduct training that would help our members cover women and girls better.
  • I will work with WIMSAL and Media Initiative for Women and Girls Empowerment (MIWGEM) to complement their media school clubs as breeding grounds for women in the media.

 

  1. MENTORSHIP

One of the current realities in SLAJ is that over 50% of the membership is below 30 years of age.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge for SLAJ with regards ethics, integrity and professionalism. As a way of molding our young membership into a crop of professional journalists, it is important that we create a system through which young journalists can be mentored. It is no secret that before any formal systems of journalism education, journalists were recruited and trained through apprenticeship and mentoring. A lot of people benefitted from these apprenticeships and mentoring. Much as we want to encourage and support formal education, we also want to maintain this culture because it is an invaluable part of how we nurture our talents.

Training this next crop of journalists is therefore a matter of priority.

  • My Executive shall work with the relevant partners – in journalism and education as well asmedia development organisations- to develop a mentorship programme for young journalists. Apart from the formal programme, my Executive would also work to pair young journalists with senior colleagues who shall volunteer their time to mentor the younger onesand advise them on matters related to their career.

 

  1. UNITY & INDEPENDENCE

We are SLAJ because our founding fathers and mothers once came together in unity to form this legacy that we all enjoy and are so proud of. Therefore, unity in the Association and its affiliates is key in making us the potent pressure group that we are.

Unity, they often say, is strength.

  • My Executive would work to ensure SLAJ remains one body after WINNING the forthcoming elections. We would ensure that after these elections, everyone feels like a winner.
  • We shall initiate a process to bring our members together. We shall do this by reaching out and engaging various sections and factions. We shall work to address deep-seated issues that have left some people unhappy.
  • My leadership will represent all journalists in Sierra Leone irrespective of their allegiances.
  • While we work to strengthen our Union, we shall remain vigilant and vocal on national issues that affect us as journalists and the general public. We shall do this without prejudice, fear or favour.

Other Priorities:

 

  1. REPEAL OF THE CRIMINAL LIBEL LAW

Every SLAJ Executive since 1971 has made the fight to repeal the Criminal and Seditious Libel Laws a priority.

Every Executive builds on the achievement of the previous. The outgoing Executive (of which I was a key figure) has taken a giant step in the repeal process which is now at Cabinet level. There’s now a clear light at the end of the tunnel. My Executive will take it up from there and finish this long and arduous race once and for all.

 

  1. PROFESSIONALISM

After the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, the public and the government will expect more from the media in terms of professionalism and responsibility.

That aside, there’s always the need for continuous training and professional development of our membership.

The main objective of my mentorship and training programmes is to ensure the next crop of journalists adopt high ethical and professional standards in their practice.

My leadership will symbolize professionalism and responsible practice. I will ensure discipline within the media. I will reconstitute and strengthen our Disciplinary Committee to be proactive, calling out the few errant journalists causing problems for the media. I will continue to popularize the SLAJ Code of Ethics and encourage every journalist to abide by its provisions. I will work with the IMC to do same with the IMC Code of Practice.

 

  1. HONEST LEADERSHIP

My more than 18 years of practice has been characterized by sincerity, honesty, fairness, objectivity, integrity and respect for every colleague. I am bringing all of these values to the SLAJ leadership and I expect these to transcend to our young colleagues in their conduct as well as practice as I lead by example.

 

The SALT approach

The SALT (Stimulate/Strengthen, Appreciate, Listen/Learn and Transfer what you have learnt) approach basically targets mindsets of journalists and reinforces their roles and responsibilities with regards to responsible practice and the overall growth of the media.

As journalists, we must work with our institutions and structures to stimulate critical discussions, appreciate what we have, learn from our past and present and transfer knowledge that will benefit us all. It is because of this reason that my Manifesto is titled “SALT”. It is tasty and you will enjoy it with maximum cooperation.

With my leadership our activities as executives are aimed at bringing about increased awareness of journalists on their role in our democracy and taking self-initiatives to contribute and advocate for improved good governance in this country.

We will focus on the SALT approach to re-establish good and trustful interaction between the people and the government by working to fill pressing gaps in terms of national unity, patriotism and tribalism to enable the government and the people to address the challenges of this country.

The SALT approach will be used to change the mind-set of our journalists and our people and propel them to look at the glass as being half full and helping us gain a fresh understanding of existing problems and opportunities to resolve them.

As an institution, we are often not aware of our own strengths and powers of managing our own affairs and therefore struggle to improve on our welfare, professionalism and responsibility.

The SALT approach will help us look inwards and appreciate the power, resources and opportunities from within and utilize them for the benefit of all journalists. Hence my campaign sub-slogan- Powered by the power from within.

Together with my team, we can help us, the government and our people to identify and use our assets towards improving the lives of us all by releasing and nurturing our assets that are already there. In doing this, we will focus on only one thing: Ask crucial questions.

Long Live SLAJ

Long Live Sierra Leone.

I Thank You.