R

Confirmed: Prison Security Breach Reported, Inmates Freed in Freetown

By Christian Conteh

Claim: There has been a breach in security at the Pademba Road Prison and Inmates are on the run

Full Text

Reports have emerged alleging a breach in prison security resulting in the release of inmates in Freetown. The claims circulating suggest that unidentified individuals breached the prison, leading to the release of inmates. The exact time and location of this incident remain unverified, but the reports indicate a significant security breach.

Verdict: TRUE-  We can confirm that there has been a Breach of Security at the Pademba Road Correctional Facility and Inmates have been released

 

Methodology

BBC Stringer Umaru Fofanah, a reliable source, who is out in the streets conveyed information regarding this incident.

Efforts to confirm these claims involved attempts to contact the Police media team, which were unsuccessful. However, sources close to the prison facility have hinted at a security lapse leading to inmate release.

The specifics surrounding the incident, including the number of inmates released, remain unclear at this point. No official statement from law enforcement or government authorities has been made available to verify or provide details on the situation.

Conclusion: We can confirm that indeed there has been a breach of security at the Pademba Road Correctional facility and Inmates are on the run.

 

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 to have access to credible and accurate information in Sierra Leone.

We will continue to update you on the incident and more

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agagagag

Alleged Breakage into Wilberforce Military Armory Confirmed

By: Mabinty M. Kamara

Claim: Unknown persons broke into the Wilberforce Amory leading to a heavy exchange of fire in some parts of Freetown in the early hours of Sunday.

Verdict: TRUE- Officials and sources close to the Wilberforce Military barrack confirmed the breakage.

Methodology:

Widespread claim shared on Facebook and WhatsApp that there were heavy firing in Freetown in the morning of 26th November 2023.

There are at least two claims in the circulating posts:

  1. i)That live rounds were fired in some parts of Freetown (Hill station where the presidential Lodge is, the Wilberforce Military Barracks, around Dwazark junctions; close to the main correctional centre.
  2. ii)That there was a breakage in the Wilberforce armoury

To verify these claims, SLAJ/NDI super Newsroom fact checkers could not get the Police media team to verify the information but the head of the Republic of Sierra Leone Arm Forces (RSLAF) Conel Issa Bangura said there was an attempted breakage. However, he said the suspect could not penetrate “Our arms and ammunitions are intact and the situation is under control now,” he said. Conel Bangura could not speak on the arrests, except that it was a battle.

A press statement from the Ministry of Information also confirmed that there was an attempted breakage into the Armory, assuring that the government and security forces were in control.

Conclusion:

The Breakage into the Wilberforce Military Armory is confirmed.  It is however not yet clear the motive behind the breakage, the people involved and how many people have been arrested so far if any.

 

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 to have access to credible and accurate information in Sierra Leone.

We will continue to update you on the incident and more

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IMG_7016

SLAJ Gender Equality Policy

 

FOREWORD

When I was contesting for the SLAJ presidency in 2019 I resolved, after extensive consultations with potential voters, that it was me to confront the age-old challenge of gender inequality in the Sierra Leone media. The media has always been male-dominated; in terms of numbers, ownership, representation in leadership positions, the distribution of assignments in the newsroom, representation in media content, education, as well as in the operations of SLAJ and its affiliate bodies.

It is true that discrimination, harassment, and inequality on the basis of gender are not limited to the media. But as an agent of societal change, it is important that the media take intentional steps to address these issues within the industry.

In my first term as President, my administration established the Gender Advisory Panel (GAP), composed of SLAJ members and people from civil society, to advise us on mainstreaming gender within the Association  and our affiliates and conduct training to help our members cover women and girls better.

Read More

Antony J. Blinken SECRETARY OF STATE

TRUE: US Government Slams Visa Restrictions on Some Sierra Leonean Officials for Undermining the Country’s Democratic Process

By Mabinty M. Kamara

CLAIM:

United States Government Slams Visa restrictions on some Sierra Leonean officials for undermining the Democratic Process in Sierra Leone 

VERDICT: TRUE https://www.state.gov/visa-restriction-policy-on-undermining-the-democratic-process-in-sierra-leone/

FULL TEXT:

A social media post that has been shared many times on Whatsapp and Facebook indicated that “The US has slammed Visa restrictions on Sierra Leonean officials responsible for “undermining the democratic process in the June 2023 elections.”

Methodology:

To verify this claim, SLAJ/NDI SuperNewsRoom contacted the United States Embassy in Freetown. The Press and Media Coordinator Alhassan Jalloh confirmed that the said post is a decision of the US government, adding that the statement can be found on the US website.

Conclusion: The US Government has levied a visa restriction on some Sierra Leonean officials whose names are currently withheld.

“Due to privacy restrictions surrounding visa eligibility information, we do not publicly publish names of individuals who are affected by this policy,” Sarha Van Horne, Public Affairs Officer at the US embassy in Freetown said.

 

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.

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ASDS

FALSE! Major Issa Turay was not killed by Gov’t of Sierra Leone

By Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

 

CLAIM: Makoni Times posted on its Facebook wall that Major Issa Turay was killed by President Bio’s government.

 

VERDICT:  False, the Turay family has released a statement detailing the circumstances of Major Turay’s death, which was natural.

 

Full Text:

On Thursday evening, Makoni Times posted on its Facebook wall that Major Issa Turay who passed away this week was killed by President Julius Maada Bio’s government. On its Facebook wall, it carried the picture of the later soldier with the quotation: “Another military officer from the North, Kamakwei has been killed by the Bio regime: Major Issa Turay of RSLAF”

VERIFICATION

The Turay family has since released a statement detailing the circumstances leading to his death, which shows it was a natural cause. His elder brother, Aruna Turay who authored the press release that has now gone viral, explained that Major Turay collapsed suddenly at his Benguema residence and was rushed to the military hospital at Wilberforce.

Aruna Turay wrote: “The truth is that the Late Major Issa Turay died of Natural Causes in the early hours of Wednesday, 16th August, 2023.”

Turay added: “In the early hours of Wednesday, he collapsed at his residence at the Armed Forces Training Centre (AFTC) in Benguema. His fiancée (a lactating mother) telephoned me at 6:20 am and informed me that Major Issa has just reported “feeling bad” and dropped on his parlour floor. So, immediately, I advised her to take him to the Medical centre at AFTC,”

Aruna continued that his brother was later referred to 34 Military Hospital, Wilberforce and by the time they got to the hospital he was pronounced dead.

The Turay family has urged Makoni Times to take down the post or they will explore an option to litigate the platform.

 

CONCLUSION: Based on the detailed explanation from the family, Major Issa Turay was not killed by the Bio government as Makoni Times claimed.

 

 

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.

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BOYCOTT

False Claim: Allegations of APC MPs Rejecting Boycott and Pledging to Represent Electorates

By Abdulai Sillah

Claim: All APC elected MPs reject boycott, pledge to represent electorates in Parliament.

Verdict: False

Full Text: On August 3rd, 2023, a social media post purportedly authored by an individual named National Political Prophet circulated on various platforms, asserting that all APC party elected Members of Parliament had convened at the regional party office in Makeni and unanimously expressed their commitment to fulfilling their duty by representing their constituents in Parliament. The piece also alleged tensions arising from the surprise stance taken by the MPs against a boycott, with claims that Dr. Samura Kamara and the Executive were caught off guard by this firm decision, with the MPs chanting “we want to go to Parliament.”

The post further contended that the MPs declared their intention to prioritize the interests of their voters and called for APC members’ support in effectively representing their respective constituencies in Parliament.

Methodology: To fact-check this assertion, Super Newsroom engaged Hon. Peter Yamba Koroma, a senior APC party member who serves as the parliamentary caucus leader for Bombali district MPs and is involved in the organization of the party.

He categorically refuted the claims, labeling them as entirely false. Hon. Peter Yamba Koroma acknowledged a meeting held on the specified date at the regional party office involving all elected APC officials, led by Dr. Samura Kamara and the party’s executive. However, he clarified that the outcome of the meeting was a renewed commitment to continue boycotting governance until their concerns were addressed.

He stated, “We will not attend Parliament until our concerns are addressed. The meeting aimed to reinforce our commitment to our boycott action. The people who elected us strongly support our stance, and we are resolute in upholding their wishes. Since we communicated our position, President Bio and the SLPP party have not made any direct effort to engage with us. We anticipated negotiations and discussions, but as of now, the party is unaware of any such developments.”

Hon. Peter Yamba emphasized that Dr. Samura Kamara had informed them of engagement with the United Nations, which acknowledged the country’s political stalemate due to their stance.

He asserted that their decision was unanimous and free from tension, with the electorate still expressing their preference for the boycott. “Should we attend Parliament? No! Our constituents continue to urge us not to go,” he added. He affirmed their unwavering determination to persist on their decision until their concerns were adequately addressed.

Conclusion: The claim that all APC MPs have officially rejected the boycott and pledged to represent their electorates in Parliament lacks substantiated evidence. Furthermore, the APC party asserts that no direct engagement has occurred with President Bio or the SLPP party regarding their concerns, which remain unaddressed.

 

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.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

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Hate Speech in The Wake of Military Arrests

HATE SPEECH ALERT!!!!!!

By: Mohamed Jaward Nyallay

Over the past two weeks, Sierra Leoneans have found themselves on edge due to reports of military arrests and discussions surrounding alleged subversion by military personnel. Amidst these reports, a surge of fake news and hate speech has emerged, further intensifying an already contentious issue.

Social media platforms have been inundated with viral messages featuring an image of Colonel Musa Bangura, a military officer, accompanied by implicit threats related to his alleged involvement in a supposed military takeover.

In response, the police issued a statement confirming the arrest of several military officers suspected of planning actions that could disrupt the peace and stability of the state, potentially leading to violence. The details of the arrests were elaborated upon during a joint press briefing, attended by the Chief of Defense Staff and the Inspector General of Police.

According to the Inspector General of Police, William Fayia Sellu, those apprehended include 8 midlevel military officers, 6 non-commissioned military officers, 2 current police officers, 1 former Police Superintendent (arrested by the Liberian government), and 2 civilians. However, official identities have yet to be disclosed despite multiple inquiries.

Regrettably, the allegations have fueled an outpouring of hate speech both in support of and against the arrested individuals. This alarming trend has taken hold online, fostering a hazardous environment barely a month after the recent election.

Due to the explicit and provocative language contained in these materials, the SLAJ/NDI newsroom has chosen not to directly share the links. Nonetheless, the individuals responsible for creating or disseminating these posts will be acknowledged.

While numerous such materials exist, two have been singled out for attention due to their widespread circulation, partly attributed to their viral nature. The prominence of these materials has led to their selection for examination.

CASE 1- A TikTok user with the handle @mikebayoh1 posted a video last week that drew significant attention. The video featured a barrage of invective language aimed at those perceived to support the alleged government overthrow. Notably, the invectives were extended to leaders of the All Peoples Congress Party, including former President Ernest Koroma and current party leader Dr. Samura Kamara.

This video was also shared by prominent social media activist Dr. John Idriss Lahai, accumulating over 12,000 views on his Facebook page. Likewise, @mikebayoh1’s TikTok account received over 11,000 views for the video. This surge in viewership occurred within days of posting, with the video quickly becoming the most-watched on the channel.

CASE 2- Last week, a writer known as Abu Shaw published an article on TheOrganiser.net, alleging that some of the arrested officers had already been killed. The article contained numerous disparaging accusations and provocative statements, none of which were substantiated with quotations or evidence.

Both Abu Shaw and Mike Bayoh share the commonality of residing outside the country.

In the midst of a tense post-election atmosphere, an escalating number of similar materials laden with invectives and hate speech are disseminated online. Such content could potentially exacerbate existing divisions and kindle the flames of dangerous unrest.

 

NOTE: This Hate Speech Alert 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 have access to credible and accurate information.

The SuperNewsRoom is powered by Africell SL.

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Participants in Port Loko listen on as the facilitator shares fact-checking techniques

SLAJ/NDI End Regional Training on Media Literacy and Combating Disinformation

By: Christian Conteh

Sierra Leone has confronted a significant challenge with the surge of disinformation, severely impacting the nation’s information landscape, public discourse, and democratic processes.

To address this growing concern, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and with generous support from Global Affairs Canada, successfully organized a comprehensive training program on media literacy and disinformation across the country.

The training sessions, which took place on the 14th, 17th, 21st, and 24th of July, were held in Bo, Kenema, Port Loko, and Makeni, representing the South, East, North West, and Northern Provinces respectively.

SLAJ President and Project Coordinator, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, formally opened the training events in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, and Port Loko, emphasizing the significance of combating disinformation in each region.

In Bo, Nasralla stated, “Disinformation has become an alarming challenge, spreading rapidly through social media platforms and affecting the information landscape, public discourse, and ultimately, our democratic processes. As journalists and members of youth groups, you play a vital role as key influencers in shaping public opinion and ensuring the dissemination of accurate information.”

During the Kenema training, Nasralla shared,

“We anticipate that after the training, participants will have enhanced their media literacy skills, enabling them to critically assess information, identify disinformation, and produce accurate and reliable content.”

Trained journalists he said are expected to exhibit improved fact-checking abilities and a commitment to combating disinformation, thereby strengthening journalism’s role in delivering accurate news to the public.

The training further aims to empower youth participants with critical thinking skills, enabling them to become informed consumers of news and actively contribute to countering disinformation within their communities.

In Makeni, Nasralla emphasized, “Through interactive sessions, practical exercises, and collaborative projects, we aim to enhance your media literacy, critical thinking, and fact-checking abilities. By doing so, we strengthen journalism’s credibility and empower youth to become informed consumers and active contributors in addressing disinformation within their communities.”

Finally, in Port Loko, Nasralla expressed gratitude to NDI and Global Affairs Canada for their support, stating,

“We encourage all participants to actively engage in the sessions and share their experiences, emphasizing the significance of this opportunity to strengthen their skills and knowledge in combating disinformation.”

Throughout the training, participants in each region were equipped with essential skills and knowledge to effectively counter disinformation. The program featured interactive sessions, practical exercises, and collaborative projects, all aimed at enhancing media literacy, critical thinking, and fact-checking abilities. The overarching goal was to strengthen journalism’s credibility while empowering the youth to become informed consumers and active contributors in addressing disinformation within their communities.

Facilitated by Ophaniel Gooding, the training covered key topics such as understanding disinformation, media literacy skills, fact-checking techniques, responsible reporting, digital citizenship, and online safety. These areas were identified as essential in equipping participants with the tools to navigate the complex information landscape, identify misinformation, and uphold ethical reporting practices.

Practical sessions were conducted after each training event, providing participants with hands-on experience to reinforce the concepts and techniques learned during the program.

Overall, the collaborative effort between SLAJ and NDI represents a significant step towards fostering a well-informed society, upholding journalistic integrity, and safeguarding Sierra Leone’s democratic processes against the challenges posed by disinformation.

 

OIP (2)

FALSE: People Are Buying Fuel At Nle 22 Per Litre And There Is Free Distribution Of Onions In Kenema

By: Mustapha Sheriff

CLAIM: That the people of Kenema are still buying fuel at Nle 22 per liter after the increment of petroleum products to Nle 25 and there is free distribution of onions in Kenema amidst the current onion crisis in Sierra Leone.

VERDICT: FALSE, as confirmed by the Chairman Sierra Leone Traders Union Kenema and the head of Petroleum Regulatory Agency East.

FULL TEXT

A Facebook post by a certain Tunde Scott within the early hours of Wednesday 2nd August 2023, claimed that the people of Kenema are buying fuel at Nle 22 per litre while people are buying fuel at Nle 25 in Freetown and that there is an ongoing free distribution of onions in Kenema.

This came after a release by Petroleum Regulatory Agency indicating an increase in the pump price of petroleum products on the 1st August 2023. This post by Tunde Scott has gone viral on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

METHODOLOGY

To investigate the said claims, the super newsroom reached out to the regional head of Petroleum Regulatory Agency east, Kemson Brima Moriba and Chairman Traders Union Kenema district Harding Jalloh to ascertain the reality of the said claims.

It was revealed by Kemson that such is not to his knowledge and that the current pump price of all petroleum products is Nle 25 per liter.

“No, not to my knowledge. The current pump price of all petroleum product is Nle25 per liter and it cuts across the country” The PRA Boss east confirmed.

The super newsroom also visited two fuel stations in Kenema including Leonco and Conex and they are selling at the new pump price issued by P.R.A on 1st August 2023.

The SuperNewsRoom also reached out to the Chairman Sierra Leone Traders Union Kenema district Harding Jalloh for confirmation.

According to him, “onion is not even available in all markets in kenema not to talk of free distribution.

“No, I can even confirm to  you that onion is not available in the markets for now not even to talk about free distribution of onions. I have also been contacted by some of my traders about the said claim and this problem is not only affecting Sierra Leone but other African countries as well” he said.

CONCLUSION: Their is no evidence to support the claim made by Tunde Scott that the people of Kenema are buying fuel at Nle 22 per litre and that there is free distribution of onions in kenema.

 

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.

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LIBERIA WELCOMES REGIONAL ACTORS TO CONFRONT DISINFORMATION

PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION

LIBERIA WELCOMES REGIONAL ACTORS TO CONFRONT DISINFORMATION

 JULY 27, 2023

 

MONROVIA – A sub regional conference confronting disinformation and hate speech today commenced in the Liberian Capital, Monrovia.

The three-day conference, organized by the National Democratic Institute, assembled member organizations from the Central and West African regions. Participating organizations at the conference include the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), and Innovation Lab Liberia (iLab Liberia), as well as organizations from Burkina Faso, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among other things, delegates are expected to derive a collective approach that would foster and enhance information sharing across member organizations.

Influencers and amplifiers with political or nefarious backing have consistently used disinformation and hate speech as tools to undermine information integrity, including electoral and democratic systems across the region. Delegates attending the conference are expected to identify ways to tackle these vices. From July 27-29, 2023, they will examine how disinformation and hate speech undermine the electoral process, and how civil society and media organizations can analyze the election environment and take action to address threats to electoral integrity in their respective countries.

Discussions at the high-level regional meeting will be the first of its kind to be held in Liberia; they will also focus on tactics common in harmful information campaigns in the region and carefully examine obstacles in combating them. Among other things, representatives at the conference will also deliberate on tools and methodologies for overcoming challenges and monitoring the online space, and attending organizations will present their own achievements and case studies regarding online monitoring and reporting across the region

The conference will also consider how disinformation and hate speech are used to target women and other marginalized communities; exacerbate religious, ethnic, and regional divides; and undermine citizens’ confidence in elections and democratic processes.

,,,,,,,

NDI, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is pleased to support this convening of regional groups who work on countering disinformation and hate speech, especially in the

lead-up to elections, when tensions can be high and swift reactions to dangerous content can have an immediate positive impact. We are looking forward to three days of engaging

conversations and brainstorming on the most effective approaches to counter information manipulation and hate speech in West Africa. ~ Zoe Hartman, Program Manager, National Democratic Institute

,,,,,,,,

NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms, and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.

With funding from the Government of Canada, NDI and partners are currently implementing projects in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to counter disinformation and misinformation during electoral periods. The initiatives are largely meant to improve information integrity and reinforce the credibility of electoral and democratic systems across these nations.