By: SLAJ Secretariat
In a groundbreaking ceremony marking the Association’s 52nd birthday anniversary The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) joined forces with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), funded by the European Union, to launch the eagerly anticipated media manifesto on June 5th, 2023. The event took place at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown.
The manifesto, titled ‘The Media We Want,’ presents a comprehensive roadmap of achievable actions and strategies aimed at advancing media freedom, professionalism, viability, gender equality, inclusivity, journalist safety, and media literacy in Sierra Leone. This crucial development comes just weeks before the upcoming general elections scheduled for June 24th.
Building on Sierra Leone’s collective progress in enhancing media freedom and viability over the years, including landmark achievements such as the repeal of Part 5 of the Public Order Act 1965 and the inaugural media viability and investment conference in April 2021, the media manifesto seeks to garner commitment from political leaders and other stakeholders for concrete action in prioritizing media freedom, development, and viability in the years to come.
Highlighting the significance of the media in promoting democratic values and governance, Dr. Idrissa Mamoud Tarawallie, Head of the Sierra Leone Country Programme at International IDEA, emphasized the role of public interest media in facilitating dialogue, debate, and holding elected leaders accountable. He affirmed International IDEA’s mission to strengthen democratic principles globally and the organization’s partnership with the media in achieving this mission.
The President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, speaking on the importance of the media manifesto to the media profession in Sierra Leone, said that: ”This manifesto is to consolidate the significant gains we have made in the last five years, and represents our collective vision and aspiration as journalists for the media we want in the next years. We want the buy-in of politicians and hope that this document will serve as the framework for all future interventions in the media sector in Sierra Leone. Many thanks to our partners Faculty of Mass Communications, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and Bournemouth University UK, and the BBC Media Action for reviewing the document, and the EU and International IDEA for funding the project.”
Manuel Muller, the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, reiterated the EU’s commitment to supporting the media and strengthening its capacity. He pledged continued assistance in protecting media freedom and pluralism through various initiatives. Recognizing the crucial role of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) in regulating the media landscape and upholding ethical and professional standards, the EU, through International IDEA, will provide equipment and institutional support to enable the IMC to effectively implement its renewed and fortified mandate as outlined in the IMC Act of 2020.
Dr. Victor Massaquoi, Chairman of the Independent Media Commission, emphasized that the media manifesto aligns with a new political logic, promoting media development, freedom, and regulation without unnecessary restrictions. He acknowledged the significance of this milestone in shaping the media landscape of Sierra Leone.
The development and launch of the SLAJ Media Manifesto 2023 were made possible through the Sierra Leone Democracy Strengthening Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by International IDEA. International IDEA is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to advancing democracy globally, considering it a universal human aspiration and a catalyst for sustainable development. Their work focuses on supporting the establishment, enhancement, and preservation of democratic institutions and processes at all levels.
As the June 24th elections approach, the unveiling of ‘The Media We Want’ manifesto has set the stage for fostering media freedom, professionalism, and viability in Sierra Leone. With political leaders and stakeholders urged to embrace this vision, the hope for a vibrant and inclusive media landscape in the coming years remains high.