SLAJ Supports EU Beach Clean-up 2021

Freetown | 14th October 2021

Photo: SLAJ members at the EU Clean-up 2020

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) will join the European Union in Sierra Leone (and partners) in the annual EU Beach Clean-up event on Saturday 16 October 2021 at 8:00am -11:00am at the Aberdeen Lumley Beach, Freetown.

This is part of SLAJ’s contribution toward collective efforts to protect our environment and raise awareness for the protection of the ocean from plastic litter as the main drivers of the depletion of marine biodiversity and climate change issues.

SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, says the media has a moral obligation to support worthy courses, and the environment is key.

“The media plays a crucial role in raising awareness about climate change issues, mobilising action, tracking policy implementation, and leading advocacy efforts towards the responsible treatment of the environment,” says Nasralla.

SLAJ is also investing in the planting of trees through the FCC’s tree planting project #FreeTownTheTreeTown campaign.

Meanwhile, SLAJ is calling its members to volunteer by joining the National Executive at the Lumley beach on Saturday.

Please put on your SLAJ Golden Jubilee T-shirt, cap, or the SLAJ visibility jacket. Let’s meet opposite Atlantic Lumley Hotel.

And don’t forget your FACE MASK!




See more photos below

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla - President, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists

Deepening Sierra Leone’s Democracy: Prospects and Challenges From a Media Perspective

Opening courtesies and remarks

Let me start by acknowledging the fact that the previous speakers have all done justice to the topic for this symposium. So I will not repeat the meaning, tenets and principles of democracy; and what type of democracy we are practicing, and whether in fact we are only toying with the democratic idea.

Yet, I will basically be saying the same things but in a different way, and I will try to be as practical as I possibly can.

What is the role of the Media in our democracy?

In the CSO/NGO world there is a component in the implementation of projects called Monitoring and Evaluation. Monitoring and Evaluation Officers, as the name implies, monitor and evaluate the implementation of projects to find out gaps and challenges and raise them up with the donors and implementing partners, all in a bid to ensure the projects are executed according to plan and desired impact is achieved.

Similarly, in a broader sense, that is the same role the media plays in our democracy. The media monitors and evaluates the social contract between the Government and the Citizens.

Apart from the traditional role of providing (accurate) information, educating and entertaining, the media has the sacred responsibility of holding the Government and public officials to account.

We also support the fight against corruption as the traditional whistle blowers in exposing corruption.

We provide the platform for healthy national (democratic) debates, and we set the agenda for public discussions.

Is the media performing these roles efficiently?

Is the media independent?

I encourage you to ponder on these salient questions and let me hear your comments during question time.

Now, to the prospects of our democracy.

Democratic Elections

Since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1996, Sierra Leone has successfully held four national post-conflict Presidential and Parliamentary elections from 2002. Two of those elections (in 2007 and 2018) have seen a ruling party handing over power to the opposition.

The conduct of those elections were widely regarded as credible, and Sierra Leone is now being looked upon as a beacon of democracy in West Africa.

Democratic Institutions

Sierra Leone has a remarkable number of institutions to support the maintenance and sustenance of our democracy.

We have the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to fight corruption and maintain transparency and accountability in public office and governance.

We have the election management bodies- the PPRC to register, and regulate the conduct of political parties; the NEC to conduct periodic elections at all levels of governance; and the Sierra Leone Police to provide security during the elections cycle, generally.

We have the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) and the National Council for Civic Education and Development to promote democratic ideals and practices among citizens and raise awareness on roles and responsibilities of the government and the governed.

We have the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), and the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) to promote media pluralism and access to information.

We have the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) to protect, defend and promote human rights.

We have the National Commission for People with Disabilities to ensure inclusive governance, and that no one is left behind.

We have the newly established National Peace Commission (although I have my reservations about its relevance) to promote peace and cohesion among political parties and citizens.

The National Broadcaster

The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) to provide public information to the people across the country, and give equal space and access to all voices including critical and dissenting voices.


We have a group of 11 CSOs, media and EMBs that have come together to form the National Political Debates Committee (NPDC) with a mission to promote democratic culture through the organisation of national political debates and public education on democratic values.


Cabinet has approved the GEWE Bill to promote gender equality and increase the number of women in politics and governance.

We have the landmark three gender Acts passed in 2007, and the Sexual Offences Act of 2012 and amended in 2019, all seeking to empower women and girls, protect them from all forms of abuse, including sexual violence, and creating opportunities for safer communities for women and girls.


The passing of the FOI Law in 2013, the historic repeal of the 55yr-old obnoxious criminal and seditious libel law in 2020, and the IMC Act 2020 are big boosts to our democracy, in the area of upholding freedom of expression and of the press, and promoting professional journalism, and increasing the space for civic discourse, engagement and dialogue, which are essential for any democracy.


Government has initiated the Government-CSO platform where they both meet to dialogue on critical national issues.

New face of the Judiciary

We should be encouraged by the recent ruling of the highest court in the land giving victory to an opposition politician in the high profile political matter of dual citizenship.

We should also be encouraged by the new public face of the once very conservative Judiciary arm of Government, now operating a Public Relations department to interface with the public. The fact that the Judiciary is also now allowing media cameras and recorders in court rooms during high profile public cases is a good prospect for justice.

Under the current Chief Justice, magistrates have been deployed in all Districts in the country, including Falaba and Karene.

For the first time places such as Kailahun District, Port Loko District, Moyamba District and Koinadugu District now have resident High Court Judges.

The Sierra Leone Judiciary was rated high above Nigeria, Uganda, Turkey, Mexico, Niger, Pakistan and a host of other countries in the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2020.

Another remarkable stride by the Judiciary that we must commend is the effort to go digital with the first virtual court being established and a responsive website where all judgments are now posted.

Internal Party Democracy

We should further be optimistic by the latest development in one of our two main political parties, the All People Congress (APC), adopting huge internal democratic reforms during their just concluded emergency national delegates conference.

These are all together enormous prospects for deepening of our democracy.


Lack of both financial and human resources for most of our democratic structures undermines their efficiency and independence. Every institution has to lobby the Ministry of Finance to release budget allocations; some struggle the whole fiscal year with only one quarter allocation.

I listened to the People’s Commissioner, Francis Ben Kelfala, the other day lamenting the logistical challenges they face at the ACC- an institution charged with the herculean task of fighting corruption in the mother land. Seven investigators sharing one laptop! Can you imagine that?

The NCD struggled to organise this symposium because of lack of funds.

Earlier today, in this big room, we all heard the PPRC staff appealing to the Minister of Political and Public Affairs to press some buttons at the Ministry of Finance on their behalf for the release of their second or third quarter allocation.

The story is the same for the RAIC, IMC and others.

Apparently, we all know Government is challenged financially and there are many competing priorities in the midst of the COVID-19. Simply, the Ministry of Finance cannot give what it does not have.

So this is a huge challenge to deepening our democracy. It is one thing to have the right institutions, it is quite another to fund and equip them with the requisite human resources for efficiency.

One thing we must totally try to avoid is to allow these democratic institutions exist to a larger extent as scare crows.

Corruption: In spite of its numerous institutional challenges, the ACC has made tremendous gains in the fight against corruption; the international indices are very encouraging and the Commission has recouped billions of Leones from public officials and politicians who have cases to answer.

A lot of public education is ongoing as a form of prevention, and prosecutions as well as deterrent but the problem persists and it is taking new forms.

There was political will with the former President declaring zero tolerance on corruption. But we all see, after 10 years the pillage of state resources and abuse of public office that took place.

There is political will now, and we are seeing the same signs and symptoms of corruption. Do we have to wait until another 10 years before we find out that public officials have misappropriated state resources?

I have said before, and I will say it again: as long as it is the President appointing the head of the ACC the fight against corruption can only go as far as the President wants it, not the Commissioner. There are lines that he/she, the Commissioner, cannot cross.

Access to justice: Despite the positive reforms taking place in the Judiciary, access to Justice still poses a huge challenge not only in Sierra Leone but Africa in general. This, again, is mostly attributed to lack of financial support by the Governments or a deliberate attempt by the politicians to stifle justice and redirect it in their favours.

In Sierra Leone, considering the number of Judges amidst the growing population of around 7million +, according to the census conducted by Statistics Sierra Leone, there are still not enough judges to dispense effective and efficient justice. Findings are that justice is usually delayed and access to it is either difficult or selective.

High profile and sensitive political cases are mostly delayed or set aside and sometimes those political cases are not even called for proceedings.

So people are still blaming the Judiciary for being selective in the administration of Justice.

The Court system punishes even the most minor of offences (such as failure to pay micro-credit) with imprisonment.


Now, His Excellency the President, as head of the Executive arm of government has the power to appoint people to public offices, and Parliament as the legislature vets these appointees. Is the vetting process of Parliament thorough? In the end what we actually get as public officials are what Parliament gives us, not what the President gives us.

Again, we don’t have to blame Parliament entirely because we are the same ones that will mobilise to influence our MPs for our /family members or friends who are appointees to go through even when we know they will not be up to the task.

Meanwhile, just last year Parliament made history by repealing the 55yr-old criminal libel law; now a year later they are making an unfortunate history as the first Parliament in the entire democracies of the world to appoint an interim executive for an independent group of journalists to hold them (Parliament) account.

The Sierra Leone Police- is still subservient to the powers that be. They have constantly been accused of arbitrary arrests and unlawful killings – the Tombo and Makeni riots as examples.

Physical attacks on journalists and notable violations of human rights, including killings and unlawful detention.

Winner takes all- we run a patronage political system, where only those in power and those who are connected to that power have access to opportunities; this undermines national cohesion and our democracy.

Regional/Ethnic/Tribe politics divide- this is fueled by politicians in their inordinate desire for power and the spoils power brings.

Political propaganda- political propaganda is spewing hate speech mis/disinformation and fake news. Unfortunately, politicians are allegedly behind the proliferation and this is a major cut back to one of the foremost principles of democracy which is freedom of speech and expression; and it’s a potential for conflict.

Political tensions at inter and intra party level also exist.

Constitutional reform

There’s little or no engagement of the media and CSOs in the current constitutional reform process. As SLAJ President, I only came to learn here this morning that the process is on.

The National Peace Commission

Why do we need a national peace commission? In the first place, we have a lot of democratic institutions that are struggling because of lack of state resources and now we have added another one to further strain the national purse.

In the second place, what peace do we need? Political peace? I don’t know but we are peaceful people. The only thing that is putting us up against one another is our politics. Take the APC-SLPP politics out of the equation, we are one heaven of a people. There are ways to diffuse such political tensions, other than creating a whole Commission that is even struggling to hit the ground running.

I ask, what does it take His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio to drive to Makeni into the compound of former President Ernest Bai Koroma to have a chat?

Both Presidents have been there before and so they have knowledge about deep seated national challenges that are stagnating this nation. So there’s a lot they can talk about in the interest of the people of this country.

They can discuss the potential for an Ex-Presidents Club, which will make them relevant and useful to national cohesion after the presidency. This can be factored into the current constitutional reform discussions.

I ask again, why is former President Ernest Bai Koroma conducting himself like he is an opposition President?

I further ask, why did President Bio not attend the opening of the New City Hall?

To achieve political national cohesion and peace we need leadership by example. That’s all we need. The ordinary people follow their approved leaders. They believe what they say and they are inspired by what they see.

The Media

Now to the Media.

So from the media’s perspective, there are obviously good prospects for deepening our democracy. However, the lack of patriotism and the divisive politics which have succeeded in polarizing our society into North West against South East, into red or green, or Paopa against Tolongbo appear to be the main barriers stifling all efforts.

The media too has become an unwilling player in fostering this, because one government came in and appointed media practitioners as Press attaches. The result is because of the attendant financial benefits, media practitioners have now largely become propagandists such that their stories are now tilted to support whoever might come in, or now has the power to transform their lives financially.

This was the dilemma of the Media organizing a debate for political leaders in the 2018 elections. The public were at pains to believe in the neutrality of the media and, of course, there were serious trust issues with the CSOs too.

It is debates like the Presidential debates of 2018 which go to deepening our democracy by putting the politicians on stage and subjecting them to scrutiny. The media did well in 2018, and the challenge now is how can those gains be built upon in a situation where party politics and deep tribalism are the order of the day.

The media is not insulated from all the challenges facing this nation. In fact, they say the media is very often a reflection of the society it operates.

So politicization of the media is a huge challenge, to the extent that independent journalism is gradually dying.

Yes, over the years we have played our own part in the development of our democracy and national emergencies. I make bold reference to national elections and the role of our IRN platform; our role during the Ebola outbreak, the mudslide and now COVID-19. These are all positives that we can build on.

However, Media poverty is still undermining professionalism and independence of the media and media practitioners.

My view is that the National Commission for Democracy and the National Commission for Civic Education have the most important task.

I say so because it will be difficult to change the mind set of us the older generation. So the NCD and NACCED must go into the schools and begin to teach the young Sierra Leoneans about the values which will make our country better. It is the children who are the future who we must train to become good citizens, with patriotic love for their country, by imbibing the values of hard work, labour and expect, honesty, integrity and decency. Bringing them up to debate issues and take honest views without fearing any recriminations at their young age is one of the best prescriptions to deepen our democracy.

Unfortunately, the truth is after watching the Convention in Makeni and before that the Regional Elections in Kono, Kenema and elsewhere, the honest conclusion is that our generation is irredeemable. If we try with the very young, we might still have a chance.

Thank you for listening to me.

Update on SLAJ, MRCG, Guild of Newspaper Editors, SLAJEC engagement with SLPPG


Stakeholders meeting with SLPPG members on the way forward


Freetown | 9th September, 2021

Update on SLAJ, MRCG, Guild of Newspaper Editors, SLAJEC engagement with SLPPG

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in collaboration with the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Guild of Newspaper Editors (GoNE), and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Electoral Commission (SLAJEC), on Thursday 2nd and Tuesday 7th September 2021 engaged the members of the Sierra Leone Parliamentary Press Gallery (SLPPG) on the SLPPG Reformation Committee (SLLPG-RC) Report. The engagements were to also chart the way forward for an effective and independent association of journalists reporting on Parliament.

The meeting on the 2nd September 2021 was scheduled for the SLPPG Executive and the other ‘aggrieved members’ to look at the SLPPG-RC Report and also for SLAJ, MRCG, GoNE to guide the process to ensure participation of all members and stakeholders.

However, the leader of the ‘aggrieved party’ (Abdulrahim R. Wurie) informed us that he would not be able to attend the meeting as he was sick but that his colleagues would be in attendance. The meeting adopted the recommendations of the report and agreed on the following as next steps:

  1. To set up two committees: i) Constitution and Membership Committee to review the SLPPG constitution and membership database, and ii) Finance and Assets Committee to look into the finances and assets of the SLPPG.
  2. To invite the general membership of the SLPPG to the next meeting scheduled for Tuesday 7th September, 2021 to appoint members into the two committees and develop Terms of Reference (ToR) for each committee.

On Tuesday 7th September 2021 at 11:30 a.m. the second meeting commenced with the absence of the leader of the aggrieved party again despite sending the invitation letter personally to him and to the official SLPPG WhatsApp Group.

With the guidance of SLAJ and MRCG the meeting appointed the following SLPPG members to serve in the committees as follows:

Constitution and Membership Committee:

  1. Osman Karim Conteh
  2. Marion B. George
  3. Edwina Sia Janga
  4. Melvin Tejan Mansaray
  5. Desril Cole

Finance and Assets Committee:

  1. Massah Nyanga
  2. Joseph Johnson
  3. Fatmata Sheriff
  4. Samuel J. Kargbo
  5. Zainab Turay
  6. Allieu Vandi Kai-Samba
  7. Shadrack A. Kamara

The meeting agreed that SLAJ will appoint one member each with the requisite qualification and experience to serve as a technical guide for each committee.

Terms of Reference:

The Constitution and Membership Committee is charged with the responsibility to review the existing SLPPG Constitution and membership database.

The Finance and Assets Committee will audit the past and current SLPPG executives, reactivate the SLPPG bank account, and submit a financial report including an asset register.

The committees have a timeframe of one month (from 10th September 2021 to 10th October 2021 to complete their assignments and submit their reports to SLAJ.

After the submission of the reports, another meeting will be convened for discussion and adoption of the way forward for the SLPPG, which will, among other things, include the conduct of elections for a new SLPPG Executive.

The meeting resolved that all members of the SLPPG are always invited to participate in the various ongoing processes that will lead to reforms at the SLPPG.


Alhaji Manika Kamara

Assistant Secretary General

SLAJ President Challenges Women in the Media to Build on Late Daisy Bona’s Legacy

SLAJ President Ahmed Sahid Nasralla challenges female journalists and VEJU


SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, has challenged female journalists to stand up and be counted in an industry that continues to be dominated by their male counterparts.

Speaking at the opening of a book of condolence for the late veteran journalist Daisy Elizabeth Bona on Friday 27th August 2021 at the Harry Yansaneh Memorial Hall, SLAJ Headquarters, in Freetown, Nasralla urged women in the media to build on the legacy of the late media icon.
He said:
“You can imagine the mediascape in the 70s, 80s, and 90s under a One Party system of governance. The frequent raids on newspaper offices; the arbitrary arrests; unlawful detentions and imprisonments; the harassments and intimidations…
“And it is during that dark period that our late elder sister, Daisy Elizabeth Bona, stood up to be counted in a male-dominated profession.
“She was a founding member of SLAJ, and a woman of many firsts. She was the first female president of SLAJ; the first to serve two terms as president of SLAJ: (1973 to 1976 and 1985 to 1986); first President of the West Africa Journalists Association (WAJA); first female newspaper proprietress and first female editor (The Flash newspaper and Leone Woman magazine).
“And 50 years since SLAJ was founded she has been the only female president of the Association. I read the glowing tributes by Bernadette Cole, another foundation member, and Betty Foray who worked with the late woman. I grow goose pimples every time I read these tributes.
“Aunty Daisy was indeed a man in a female body. Betty describes her as a mother hen; Bernadette says: she dared where angels feared to tread.
“So to you women in the media, there’s no more excuse. If Daisy could do it in a period when freedom of speech and of the press couldn’t breathe under the knees of a one-party government and the obnoxious criminal and seditious libel law, you have no excuse not to surpass Aunty Daisy’s prowess and achievements in this age when we have democracy, and the criminal libel is no more.
“You should draw inspiration from this great media icon, and you have a duty to build on her legacy.”
Furthermore, Nasralla also challenged senior journalists in the Veteran Journalists Union Sierra Leone (VEJU) who practiced during that period and served in various Executives and Committees of SLAJ, to recount their experiences and document them for posterity.
“It is your (VEJU) responsibility to tell your stories so they can be documented; and passed on from generation to generation.
“When you tell your own stories, it is more credible, more authentic, because it’s like you are reliving your past.
“The younger generation of journalists deserve to know those who were there before them and what they did and failed to do. If you don’t write now, you all stand to be lost in the fog of neglect,” said the SLAJ President.
By Alhaji Manika Kamara
Asst. Secretary General, SLAJ
30th August 2021

PRESS RELEASE: COVID-19’s devastating impact on news industry revealed in new national survey


Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mamadi Gobeh Kamara (middle) officially launches report on disaster journalism in Sierra Leone

Freetown: 5th May 2021

Covid-19 has had a devastating psychological and financial impact on journalists in Sierra Leone, a new study released today has found.

Impact of Covid-19 on journalism in Sierra Leone was released by Madam Mamadi Gobeh-Kamara, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at the headquarters of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in Freetown.

The national survey, published by SLAJ and led by researchers at Bournemouth University in the UK, had responses from more than 600 journalists across the country. It reveals that the pandemic affected almost every aspect of news production as well as the individual wellbeing of a majority of journalists.

“This is a serious situation which needs to be addressed through cooperation, collaboration, and networking or partnerships. The Government has a role to play as well as SLAJ and the individual media houses to collectively look at the recommendations and work together to address them because COVID-19 will not be the last disaster to befall us,” said the Deputy Minister.

Among the key findings were:

  • Almost 60% of journalists reporting having experienced depression and almost 70% experiencing increased anxiety
  • 86% of journalists say they have been impacted financially with 16% (around one in six) saying they had lost their jobs
  • Survey respondents reported decreased news production in broadcast, print, and online platforms
  • Most respondents felt they were ill-prepared and ill-trained to face the pandemic.

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, President of SLAJ, said the survey was the first study to focus specifically on how the pandemic has affected journalists in Sierra Leone, and that it underlined the importance of strengthening disaster preparedness in the news industry.

“A healthy and thriving news sector must be at the heart of any crisis response,” he said. “We must build the disaster resilience of journalists in this country to protect the vital role they play,” said Nasralla.

Dr Chindu Sreedharan of Bournemouth University, the lead author of the survey report, said, “Some of our most worrying findings highlight the extreme psychological impact the pandemic has had on journalists across Sierra Leone.

“With a majority of respondents reporting having suffered from depression and anxiety, the government and news organisations must come together to invest much-needed resources in protecting the emotional and mental health of media personnel in times of crisis.”

The survey forms part of Tie u Orjaa capacity-building initiative led by researchers at Bournemouth University in collaboration with SLAJ, Limkokwing University, and Save the Children (Sierra Leone). It is funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which supports research to address urgent needs and challenges faced by developing countries.

The survey focused on the impact of Covid-19 on the news media, as well as the future training requirements of journalists. The authors highlight the need for urgent action in four key areas: psychological resilience, financial resilience, health protection and resilience, and building future disaster resilience.

Professor Lee Miles, disaster management expert at Bournemouth University and one of the authors of the survey, said, “In view of the critical role the news media play during public health crises and disasters, Bournemouth University, in close cooperation with SLAJ and other partners, will offer further research-informed activities to build the capacity of journalists and crisis communicators. We hope our work will strengthen future disaster resilience in Sierra Leone.”

Hundreds of journalists, from all four provinces and the Western Area, responded to the survey. This included news personnel working in print, online, broadcast, and radio, as well as news agencies. The full report can be accessed at this link-

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY 2021: SLAJ President calls on Government to never again pass any law that will criminalise free speech

Statement by SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla,
on World Press Freedom Day 2021- 3rd May, 2021

Opening of Book of Reflection on the demise of Criminal and Seditious Libel Law
From (l-r): Chairman of the Independent Media Commission (IMC)- George Khoryama; Minister of Information and Communications- Mohamed Rahman Swarray; Head of Department, Mass Communications, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone- Dr. Williette James; and President of SLAJ- Ahmed Sahid Nasralla

30 years ago a group of journalists, including our own Paul Kamara from Sierra Leone, met in Namibia to adopt the Windhoek Declaration for the development of a free, independent, and pluralistic press.

SLAJ, therefore, joins the rest of the world and UNESCO to celebrate 30yrs of the Windhoek Declaration as it gives us an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from, where we are now and where we want to go with regards to freedom of speech and of the press. It further reminds us of our responsibilities as journalists, and the obligations of governments to guarantee these fundamental rights that are crucial to the development of our democracies.

For us in Sierra Leone, and for SLAJ specifically, for the first time in 50 years we are commemorating World Press Freedom Day without having to call on the Government to scrap the infamous Criminal and Seditious Libel Law contained in Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965.

Last year, 2020, our nation took the very bold but necessary action of repealing the 55yr-old law, ushering new dawn for not only journalists and the media, but also for all Sierra Leoneans and even politicians and giving a new meaning to our fledgling democracy.
Freedom of expression is the fundamental human right upon which all other freedoms (association, assembly, and peaceful protest) depend, and so we want to thank His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio, his government, and the Parliament of Sierra Leone for this brave accomplishment.

We also want to recognize the role played by the International Community in Sierra Leone, CSOs, and other stakeholders in that regard.

And to start the celebration of this landmark victory, we are today opening a Book of Reflections on the demise of the Criminal and Seditious Libel Law, where victims will share their experiences with the anti-free speech legislation.

Later on, in the course of the year, we will premiere a documentary showing our long walk to freedom; and we are also working to install a commemorative structure to Free Speech and Free Media.

With the repeal of the anti-free speech law, it should not surprise you that Sierra Leone moved 10 places up in the latest World Press Freedom Index from 85th to 75th.

While this is very encouraging, we need to continue to do more to not only jealously guard that freedom and civic space that we have achieved, but to do all we can to continue to expand it.

We must particularly note that the repeal-only takes away criminal and seditious libel law; there are still other common laws that remind us to be more responsible and professional in our work as media practitioners. There is, for example, the civil defamation law. And journalists reporting on the courts and parliament should be reminded that there is the law of contempt.

Let me reiterate what I said following the repeal of the criminal libel law that whilst we have been given more freedom to do our work we must know that such freedom goes with immense responsibility. So we must not give any reason to those who were opposed to the repeal to say we told you not to repeal. This is not to say as journalists, we must not investigate and expose corruption in high places, or we must not hold public officials and our government to account. What we are saying is for us to do all of this but in a responsible manner and strictly following the codes that define our profession.

SLAJ has made its position clear on the Cybercrime Bill 2020 that it is not against legislation that seeks to protect and promote responsible use of cyberspace which is becoming increasingly a dangerous threat to our individual and collective security, peace, and stability, but that in its current draft form it is not a good law for our country.

In our position statement, which is on behalf of the entire media fraternity in the country including the IMC, RAIC, and MRCG, and which we have submitted to the Ministry of Information and Communications and the leadership of Parliament, we raised serious concerns relating to provisions and sections in the bill that have the potential to undermine the gains we have made as a country in the area of freedom of expression and of the press, and people’s privacy rights.

SLAJ, therefore, takes this opportunity, in observing World Press Freedom Day, to urge and appeal to our elected representatives in the Parliament of Sierra Leone to scrutinize this bill and take on board our concerns (and those from expert groups) in the same spirit and manner we collectively pursued and achieved the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act of 1965 and the passing of the IMC Act 2020.

A recent study on the State of Safety of Journalists Policies and
Practices Among Media Houses in Sierra Leone conducted by the MFWA and MRCG with support from the Dutch Foreign Ministry (through the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana) show that majority of the media houses studied lacked safety and security, and gender policies. Journalists in the line of duty expose themselves to dangers when covering riots or demonstrations, and the most popular perpetrators of violations against journalists are police officers, military personnel, politicians, civil servants, and community stakeholders/people. So while the criminal libel law is gone, harassment and intimidation of journalists are now taking different forms.

SLAJ is concerned about this and we will discuss these issues, including the recommendations of the study, at our coming AGM to brainstorm on workable approaches to ensure the safety and security of all journalists and to promote gender mainstreaming in the media.

As part of events for our 50th-anniversary celebration, on November 2nd marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, SLAJ will be partnering with the national security sector for a roundtable frank talk to address our differences, understand our roles, respect our responsibilities and how we can work together towards a common national goal.
Having said that, let me hasten to say that SLAJ has also been receiving complaints from people of intimidation and harassment by journalists. We call on those journalists who thrive on intimidation, harassment, blackmail, character assassination, and attack-collect-and defend journalism to desist from such unprofessional and unethical practice. You have no place in our noble profession.

Community radio stations play a very important role in ensuring information filters down to remote communities, but they face enormous challenges to be on air regularly and for which we have been appealing for the support of the Government of Sierra Leone and the international community.

Nevertheless, these challenges will remain if these community radio stations do not serve the interest of the communities they operate. If you are a community radio station and yet you are serving the interest of a politician or political party other than the concerns of your community, then you are doing a disservice to your people and the nation.

SLAJ, therefore, urges the communities, the Boards, to take ownership of these community radio stations and make them meaningful to their cause.

Beyond the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, our focus now is to strengthen professionalism in the media. That is why the theme for our 50th Anniversary is “Towards a free and professional media”. To achieve this, we need the support of every media stakeholder including the IMC, RAIC, MRCG, and international partners and CSOs.

So as part of our moves to bring more professionalism into our practice, SLAJ is pleased to announce that the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has approved a project to promote professionalism in the Sierra Leonean media.

In addition, in the last three months, SLAJ had the opportunity to work with crisis communication experts at Bournemouth University in the UK, and we together undertake a rapid response national survey to assess the impact COVID-19 has had on our journalism industry.

The findings of that national survey will be released on the 5th of May 2021, but allow me to share one or two key thoughts that emerged from what our good friends at Bournemouth University have found:

i) Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on every aspect of the news industry in Sierra Leone.

ii) A majority of journalists — more than 80% — were affected financially.

iii) It has also affected the mental wellbeing of a high percentage of journalists and disrupted news publishing significantly — at a time when journalists should be even more vigilant and active.

This situation must change. We know that a healthy, thriving news industry is at the heart of every good crisis response.

Over the next months, SLAJ will work with our friends at Bournemouth University to address this situation, and we call upon the government, NGOs, and other like-minded organisations in joining us in our efforts.

Meanwhile, the international theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Information as a public good’. Indeed, information is an essential commodity for the sustenance of our livelihoods and our functioning as democratic states. People need the correct information to be able to make informed decisions about their health, education, security, livelihoods, and in choosing their leaders through periodic elections. When this is possible, the public good- peace and stability are maintained.

In conclusion, we want to look at the future role of the media and verified information. In 10 years’ time, the role of the media in providing accurate information, exposing corruption, holding public officials and governments to account, educating and raising awareness, etc. will not change much. What will change is the demand for greater responsibility of the media in combating fake news, hate speech, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, all of which have culminated into a raging media virus called infodemic.

Finally, let me urge our government and politicians to make a bold commitment to never again pass any law that will criminalise free speech, and I urge every journalist to aspire to be a true and patriotic professional.

Long Live SLAJ!

Long live Freedom of Expression and of the Press!

Long live the Government and People of Sierra Leone!

Happy World Press Freedom Day!

God bless us all!

SLAJ President Calls for Strategic & Sustained Ties with China

Remarks by SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, at the Symposium organised by the Chinese Embassy, SLAJ, and the Parliament of Sierra Leone.

Topic: Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and 50 years of China-Sierra Leone Cooperation
Date: 30th April, 2021
Venue: Bintumani Hotel
Time: 9:00am to 11:30am

The high table: from l-r: President of SLAJ Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, Hon Speaker of Parliament Dr. Chernor Abass Bundu, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone His Excellency Hu Zhangliang, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hon Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo


I have not been to China yet, but I know how to say ‘Nimen Hao’.

Let me start on a personal note. I fell in love with China in the late 80s and early 90s when I was in secondary school. We used to escape school to watch Chinese movies at Globe Cinema, and on weekends we looked forward to Matinee shows at Strand, Roxy, and Starco cinemas. Remotely, I fell in love with big-screen actors like Jackie Chan, Wong Chong Li (aka ‘Golden Fox’), Jet Li, Dragon Lee, the Shaw Brothers, and more. I also fell in love with China’s dynamic culture and its respect for nature.

We were so fascinated by the art of Kungfu so much that we started training martial arts. And we (proud products of the Freetown Gladiators Karate School) would move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood across Freetown sparring with other trainees. I got so engrossed in the art that I started behaving like a Shaolin Monk; I shaved the hair on my head and that’s how I came to have the nickname ‘De Monk’.

Sadly, with the disappearance of the cinema that aspect of Chinese diplomacy and cultural export has diminished. Or rather it has taken new forms in this digital age. I hope one day I will have the opportunity to visit that great country and be exposed to the laudable things that are happening there.

I have followed the evolution of China, albeit from a distance, but what has struck me most is their deep thinking, the original ideology, and the concentration on what is good for China.
I am looking forward today to learn a few things about the vision of President Xi Jinping, with the hope that somehow I can pick a few lessons which I can use to further help in the transformation of SLAJ into a more productive Association just like China is almost topping the world now.

Mr. Ambassador, just a few years ago China was a third-world country. But even though 60 years ago Sierra Leone was influential enough to recommend China for a seat at the United Nations, today China is amongst the first three nations in the world while Sierra Leone continues to struggle.

In terms of the relationship between China and Sierra Leone, this should be a period of reflection. We need to see how in the next 60 years we can be at par with China.

This is why this symposium is important because we at SLAJ are looking forward to hearing the history, and learning about the strategy that China has used.

So SLAJ is very pleased and honoured to partner with the Chinese Embassy and the Parliament of Sierra Leone to organize this symposium on ‘President Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy and 50 Years of China-Sierra Leone Cooperation’.

As China and Sierra Leone celebrate 50 years of friendship this year 2021, SLAJ is also celebrating 50 years of existence as a professional umbrella body for the media in Sierra Leone dedicated to promoting and protecting free speech and freedom of the media. And this event is part of our Golden Jubilee activities.
On behalf of the national and regional Executives, and the entire membership of SLAJ, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the China-Sierra Leone Cooperation.

We are inspired that since 1971 the Sino-Sierra Leone friendship has grown from strength to strength and it has been one of mutual understanding, respect, and benefit. China’s bilateral support to Sierra Leone can be seen in the many infrastructural landmarks across the country; from roads to public office buildings, health, agriculture, and mining sectors.

Similarly, SLAJ and the media generally have enjoyed a very good relationship with the Embassy of China, and this symposium is an indication of how this relationship is growing.

Many journalists have benefitted (and continue to benefit) from study scholarships to China, short-term courses, and visitations.
SLAJ and its affiliate bodies have also received logistical support from the Chinese Embassy in the form of office and media equipment.

About 10 journalists have been supported to do Masters and PhD programs in China. Over 40 journalists have been supported to do short courses; 4 journalists have been given the opportunity to train with Chinese media for one year including the young man who is now our Assistant Secretary-General.

Nevertheless, what we have observed is that most of the training opportunities given to our journalists (apart from the Masters and PhD programs) focus mainly on Chinese development. Beneficiaries are usually taken on a conducted tour of China’s imposing infrastructural cityscape, and moreover, the same journalists continue to enjoy this privilege. We need to review such a program to ensure journalists acquire the right skills and knowledge to enhance their professionalism when they return home. SLAJ and the Embassy might also consider doing a survey to assess the impact of such training on the media in Sierra Leone.

Furthermore, the Chinese Embassy has also supported SLAJ in several projects, our AGMs and other related matters, and former Amb. Kuang Weilin a few years ago was at SLAJ HQ to deliver a talk on the China-Sierra Leone relationship.

So as we celebrate 50 years, we look forward to a more strategic and sustained relationship at the institutional level of China’s support. We encouraged the Embassy to deal directly with SLAJ when it comes to training and scholarship opportunities for media practitioners. We also look forward to the intervention of the Embassy in our effort to construct a befitting SLAJ headquarters in the capital city.

SLAJ believes that any bilateral tie between China and Sierra Leone must have a component for media development. More than ever before our country needs independent and professional media to hold this nation together.

With these few words let me thank the Ambassador for this event and hope that this is just the beginning of a long, sustained, and mutually beneficial relationship between the Chinese Embassy and SLAJ.

I thank you.

SLAJ President Calls on Journalists to Give Back to Society

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, has called on journalists across the country to give back to society in the form of ethical, professional and patriotic practice.

Speaking last night on the occasion of the 9th Independent Media Commission (IMC) National Media Awards 2021 ceremony at Radisson Blu, Aberdeen Freetown, Nasralla used the scriptures to remind journalists about their sacred responsibility to the nation.

“Mr. Chairman, the Bible says in Luke12:48 ‘… For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

“In my view, when we look at these scriptures in the context of the repeal of the criminal libel law, it means that society has given us what we asked for. Now it is time for us as journalists to give back to society.

“Our country today is at crossroads. If it is not police killing unarmed civilians, it is parliamentarians fighting in Parliament. If it is not civilians burning down houses in revenge, it is Okada Riders in street fights with the police. All of these are serious challenges facing our country today. It’s like our country is on the edge again.

“And as journalists, we must be concerned and we have a role to play in all of this. But we can only play this role if we practice professionally. We cannot be partisan in reporting the fighting in Parliament. If we do, we will only be pouring petrol in the fire. And this is the same for all the conflicts raging presently. We must be very careful in the way we report so that we do not by our reports inflame passions and drag this country into conflict again. Sierra Leone is the only country we have and it is our sacred duty to protect it,” said Nasralla.

Read the full statement:

SLAJ President Remarks At 9th IMC Media Awards 2021