In a remarkable display of appreciation and encouragement, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, today, Friday 23rd June 2023, embarked on a tour of major electronic media institutions in the Western Area.
The purpose of the excursion was twofold: to extend gratitude to the various media establishments for their exceptional work and to inspire them to strive for even greater achievements during the elections.
During his visit, Nasralla not only expressed heartfelt appreciation for the invaluable contributions of these media organisations but also issued a fervent plea for the upholding of principles such as fairness and balance in their coverage of the upcoming elections, scheduled to take place tomorrow 24th June 2023. Nasralla urged media practitioners to remain steadfastly apolitical, emphasising the need for responsible and unbiased reporting.
The SLAJ President stressed the importance of adhering to the media code of ethics and the newly legislated regulations of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) on print and electronic media, and elections coverage. Recognising the power of the press in shaping public opinion, Nasralla emphasised the role of professionalism and integrity in maintaining a healthy democracy.
Nasralla also used the opportunity to address a matter of paramount importance to all journalists: safety and security. With passionate conviction, he underscored the need to prioritise the well-being of journalists, stating,
“We must prioritise our safety and security as journalists. We are the lifeblood of our democracy, and we must ensure that we can carry out our duties without fear or hindrance. However, let us remember that safety comes first, and no story is worth dying for.”
Nasralla highlighted the significant efforts undertaken by SLAJ to address these concerns, including a series of comprehensive training programs conducted across the country. These initiatives focused on specialised training on safety and security for journalists, with particular attention given to the well-being of female journalists. Furthermore, SLAJ organised extensive training sessions to educate practitioners on the intricacies of the Proportional Representation (PR) system and familiarise them with the recently enacted IMC Act and Code.
Underlining the importance of collaboration between journalists and the security forces, Nasralla recalled the memorandum of understanding (MoU) SLAJ signed with the security sector. This crucial partnership aims to establish a strong bond between the media and security agencies, working hand in hand to ensure the safety and security of journalists and enhancing security of all citizens. Nasralla passionately implored journalists to unite with the security sector in these efforts, stating that,
“Our collective efforts are vital in creating an environment where journalists can fulfill their duty to inform the public without fear or compromise.”
Accompanied by the Association’s Vice President, Sahr James Banga, Secretary General Alhaji Manika Kamara, and other members, Nasralla’s tour included visits to prominent media houses such as Radio Democracy 98.1, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), Media One Centre (STAR), Africa Young Voices (AYV), Afri-Radio, Justice Radio, Tumac Radio, and Citizen Radio.
Each encounter was marked by Nasralla’s unwavering commitment to press freedom and his recognition of the integral role journalists play in fostering a vibrant and thriving democracy.
As Sierra Leone eagerly awaits polling day, Nasralla’s tour serves as a powerful reminder of the significance of a free and independent press. With his impassioned call for fairness, balance, and the prioritisation of safety and security inspiring journalists to uphold their noble mission of providing accurate and unbiased information to the public.
The initiative is supported by Irish Aid, UK Aid, the European Union, the National Endowment for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute.