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Monday, January 30, 2023

End crimes against journalists

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End crimes against journalists

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“Journalists continue to be killed and face increasing level of intimidation and violence. The disregard for the fundamental rights of journalists as they exercise their profession has led to a climate of impunity affecting not only victims, but also freedom of expression and rule of law”.

They argued that media accountability was first and foremost with the general public, adding that freedom of opinion and expression, both online and offline, was a fundamental right and constituted essential foundations for democracy, rule of law, peace and stability.

The EU said they fully supported the AU’s commitment expressed in their agenda to achieve, by 2025, freedom of expression and the promotion of the establishment of a vibrant press that informs the public and holds governments accountable. 

The EU and the AU further stated that they welcomed the recent adoption by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a resolution on the safety of journalists as a very positive step forward to ensure the safety for members of the media.

In Sierra Leone the government has reiterated their commitment to a recently rejuvenated effort by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, SLAJ, meant to broaden the discourse and ultimately lead to the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act which criminalises free speech.

While the minister of information, Mohamed Bangura, said the law was a bad law and must be repealed, the Inspector General of Police, Francis Allieu Munu, said they had realised that journalists had long called the repeal and they would not stand in the way of the process but that hence necessary safeguards needed to be put in place to protect the citizens.

“Our government is committed to repealing this act and we are going to repeal it, as long as I remain the minister of Information and Communication”, he assured the largest gathering ever to consult on the repeal of the law and find alternatives.  

The British and Irish envoys in the country had backed the call for a repeal of the law and were supporting journalists and the government to speedily address the issue of free speech and freedom of the press associated with way the law was being used by politicians against journalists.

President of SLAJ, Kelvin Lewis, said the law was enacted by the second prime minister of the country, Sir Albert Margai, to go after some opposition journalists, adding that the law was meant to jail people because of saying or writing the truth.   

Meanwhile the EU and AU said in the statement that they were urging all government s to recommit themselves to protecting journalists.

“We call on state authorities to fulfil their responsibility to protect journalists, establish a meaningful deterrence against the violent targeting of media professionals, and fully abide by their international and continental obligations. State authorities should investigate crimes against journalists effectively, promptly and in an independent manner and ensure that both state and non-state perpetrators and instigators of such violence are brought to justice.

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