Following allegations that the Publisher of Awareness Times newspaper, Dr. Sylvia Blyden, was arrested because of her critical and controversial publications and postings on social media, we visited the CID yesterday, Saturday, 2nd May, 2020 at around 5pm to find out what actually were the charges against her.
The investigator dealing with Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s case, EK Allieu, could not tell us the charges against her as they were “still investigating”.
He also said they have taken Dr. Blyden’s mobile phone and personal computers and submitted to the Cyber Unit as they were also investigating her for Cyber crime.
He said they have not granted Dr. Blyden bail because “her case is very serious” and that they were still investigating.
However, my self and my Secretary General were allowed to see Dr. Blyden in her cell for about 10 minutes.
Dr. Blyden told us she was “captured” and “kidnapped” from her residence and was never told she was under arrest.
She said the Police have still not told her why she was being held in custody, other than being asked “why I was so critical of the government and writing to incite the populace”.
She complained that she spent the previous night “with hard core criminals brought in from the Pademba Road Correctional Center in a cell specifically meant for females”. But the CID official with us during the meeting denied any knowledge of such and claimed that would never happen.
Dr. Blyden said as far as she was concerned it was just intimidation and an attempt to shut her down.
We encouraged her to be strong and to cooperate with the investigation.
We assured her that we are fully following the matter to find out if it actually borders on her right as a citizen to freedom of expression.
We also assured her that we will engage with the authorities to ensure she gets bail and a fair investigation.
SLAJ Condemns State Sanctioned Brutality Against Journalists:
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! —————–
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is concerned about the inhumane treatment of journalist Fayia Amara Fayia in the hands of some personnel of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Sierra Leone Police (SLP), and the Kenema District Council (KDC).
Fayia was mob-beaten by about nine military officials allegedly led by one Major Fofana and arrested on Wednesday, 1st April, 2020 in Kenema in the line of duty. The journalist and his colleagues were refused entry into a potential quarantine venue at Damba Road, Kenema, that was barricaded by the military ‘while other people were allowed access’. After several protests, Fayia attempted to take snapshots with his smart phone of a truck of rice being off-loaded within the barricaded area. At this point, eye-witnesses said Major Fofanah rushed at Fayia and called on his colleagues who descended on the poor and unarmed journalist and mob beat him mercilessly.
According to eyewitnesses, the incident happened in the full view of the Commanding Officer of the RSLAF 2nd Battalion in Kenema, Major Kamanda, and the Kenema District Council Chairman, Mohamed ‘O’Level’ Sesay, who all seemed to support the action of the military personnel.
After his beating, Fayia was taken to the Kenema Police Station. Journalists in the township trooped to the Police station and demanded their colleague be taken to hospital as he was in a very bad shape. Fayia was then admitted at the Kenema Government Hospital in handcuffs. At the hospital, he was instantly put on a wheelchair as a result of the injuries he sustained.
On Saturday, 4th April, 2020, Fayia was whisked off to the Kenema Police Station on the pretext of only to obtain statement from him, but was held in custody afterwards. He spent the entire national lockdown under detention despite his deteriorating health condition.
On Wednesday, 8th April, 2020 the Police charged Fayia with three counts of ‘disorderly behavior and obstruction of security services’.
On Thursday, 9th April, 2020, Fayia appeared at the Kenema Magistrate Court No. 1, where he reportedly collapsed. He was subsequently granted bail in the sum of Le30 million plus two sureties; and the matter adjourned to 15th April, 2020.
In another incident, report from our Regional Executive North say Police at the Mena Police Station, five of them, mob beat journalist Stanley Sahr Jimmy, Station Manager of Wusum Radio 88.5FM in Makeni on Sunday, 5th April, 2020 at about 10:45pm. The journalist reportedly went to the police station to report an alleged break-in into his radio station. While making his report, an argument reportedly erupted between him and some of the police officers which allegedly resulted to his beating. He was forcefully dispossessed of his phones.
Jimmy reportedly sustained injuries to his lower abdomen, mouth and left eye. A medical report has been tendered to the CDIID while he is responding to treatment.
SLAJ vehemently condemns the actions of the RSLAF and SLP personnel and urges both the Chief of Defence Staff RSLAF and Inspector General of Police to seriously look into the matter and ensure the alleged culprits are brought to book.
“This kind of attitude by our security forces is uncalled for and is worrying. Our security forces seem to have no other means of dealing with journalists other than physically assaulting them. It seems as if a key element of their training is how to beat journalists. The list of police/military assault on journalists is long. I say to security officials, if you want to fight go start a war with Liberia or Guinea; leave journalists to do their work. We are not punching bags. It’s a shame that our security forces seem to have no clue about the role of the media in our democracy. This has to stop! Enough is enough!” said SLAJ President,” Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.
SLAJ is closely monitoring the situation and will ensure that the journalist Fayia Amara Fayia gets a fair trial in court, gets proper medical attention and will not rest until the alleged culprits face justice.
SLAJ, through its Regional Executive East, is making a formal complaint to the Police against Major Fofana and Co, and the Kenema District Council Chairman.
Meanwhile, SLAJ continues to call on journalists across the country to abide by the measures put in place by the authorities to combat COVID-19 and to be very cautious and self-protective during this crisis period.
—————– Mohamed Asmieu Bah National Secretary General
It has been a long and tortuous journey over the years since media practitioners have been clamouring for Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act which criminalizes libel to be repealed. Past Executive bodies of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) have taken bold steps in that direction but either serious efforts were not put to make it happen or the then Governments in power were not really ready for such to transpire.
With the ascendancy to the presidency, His Excellency the President Julius Maada Bio and his Government have so far demonstrated genuine commitment to ensure that the repeal process goes on unfettered until ultimately the obnoxious aspect, Part V, is finally expunged.
Fruitful engagements have taken place between the Government ,on the one hand and media practitioners on the other hand all geared towards coming up with good initiatives that would fit in after slashing off of the so-called obnoxious aspect which has been deemed inimical to Press Freedom.
It must be noted that the Public Order Act of 1965 in Sierra Leone is an Act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to public order. Part V of the act deals with laws relating to Defamatory and Seditions Libel.
This particular law in Sierra Leone criminalises the offence of defamation, and has thus prompted various media activists to criticize its existence.
Under this law journalists have suffered incarceration for alleged libellous violations said to infringe on the fundamental liberty of innocent people. As time went by, the hue and cry by the Fourth Estate became louder and deafening.
Optimism became hyper high when during the Presidential cocktail while President Bio was romancing with the media he again registered his Government’s determination to ensure that the process is completed.
Many journalists breathe a sigh of relief when it was understood that the repeal process has reached Cabinet level where it was discussed lengthily and as per protocol sent to Parliament to be debated and after probable amendments could have been made, send it to the President for his assent before it becomes law.
According to the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, Parliament has graciously offered an avenue for him in collaboration with the media to make a presentation to the Committee of the whole House in a bid to convince them to fast-track the repeal process.
Somehow, journalists were a bit disappointed when Parliamentarians failed to deliberate the said repeal as scheduled on the 17th December 2019 but postponed the deliberation to the 18th December 2019.
The anxiety among journalists is understandable in the light of the fact that for too long they have been yearning for the day when their dream will become true. Many say, in modern democratic societies, remedies for defamation are civil and not criminal.
Hence, making defamation a criminal offence becomes a violation of Section 25 (1) of Act No 6 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which reference specifically the fundamental human right to freedom of Expression.
In other words, instead of criminalising libel, after the repeal, civil adjudication of libel-related matters will take precedence and the truth will once more become a defence. Put in other words, there will be no vacuum in the absence of Part V and journalists will not just go about freely to say libellous things against innocent persons as there will be a law in place to safeguard liberties.
Media practitioners are expecting that since President Bio and Cabinet are in favour of the repeal, as law makers, Parliamentarians will fine tune it and give it the maximum support it deserves before it reaches the President’s desk.
For now it is repeal all the way as we say goodbye to 2019 and ready to say welcome to 2020.
As ACC Inquiry into allegation of corruption against Chief Minister…
SLAJ Calls for Respect of Media Freedom
In the wake of the arrest of, Salieu Tejan Jalloh, Proprietor of Times
SL Newspaper on Monday 11 November 2019 and detention at the Criminal
Investigations Department (CID), for almost 24 hours, the Sierra Leone
Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has issued a strong worded Press
Release calling on the Police and Politicians to respect media freedom.
Signed by the National Secretary General of the Association, Mohamed
Asmieu Bah, the Release stated among other things that SLAJ is pleased
to officially inform its membership and the general public that Salieu
has been released on bail through the intervention of the Association
and the Ministry of Information and Communications.
further to mention that, Salieu Tejan Jalloh, spent almost 24 hours in
detention at the Criminal Investigations Department without any official
charge or reason for his arrest.
The Association maintained that
while it totally condemns the manner in which the Police moved in to
arrest and lock up the journalist, who did not publish anything
malicious or defamatory other than trying to crosscheck information that
he had; it believes such is a standard journalistic practice.
the release it was also highlighted that the journalist alleged that
the police officers who arrested him went to his office at Soldier
Street, Freetown, on the pretext of wanting to place an advert in his
newspaper, and manhandled him in the process of effecting an arrest.
SLAJ says it is particularly concerned that such is coming at a time
when the Government has shown great commitment to repeal the obnoxious
Criminal Libel Law and promoting media freedom.
The release ended
with SLAJ reiterating how it will continue to engage the Police and
called on our membership of the Association to always practice within
the parameters of the SLAJ Code of Ethics and the Independent Media
Commission’s Code of Practice.
President of SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid
Nasralla strongly condemned the actions of the Police. This was what he
said: “The action by the Sierra Leone Police was absolutely wrong and we
totally condemn it. It is time to break this unholy partnership between
the police and politicians locking up journalists from time to time
using the Criminal Libel Law. The Police must understand that we are law
abiding citizens and we are not criminals,” said the President of SLAJ,
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.
On the same issue that led to the arrest
of Salieu Tejan Jalloh, the Anti –Corruption Commission (ACC) also came
out with a Press Release titled: “ACC Enquires into Allegations of
Corruption against Chief Minister”.
In the release the Commission
also pointed out that in light of recent allegations of corruption
against the Chief Minister, Professor David John Francis, it wishes to
inform the general public that it has accordingly taken appropriate
action. It was established that Professor Francis himself contacted the
Commission following a text message he received from Salieu
Tejan-Jalloh, Managing Editor of The Times Sierra Leone Newspaper,
alleging that a total of US$1.5M was paid into his Ecobank account as
The ACC furthered that the Chief Minster accordingly
informed the Commission, acting in accordance with Section 77 of the
Anti-Corruption Act 2008, which imposes a duty on all public officers to
report where a corruption offence has been committed or is about to be
“Acting in consonance with Section 7(1)(b) of the
Anti-Corruption Act 2008, which mandates the Commission “to investigate
instances of alleged or suspected corruption referred to it by any
person or authority or which has come to its attention, whether by
complaint or otherwise,” the ACC accordingly contacted Mr. Jalloh to
help with information to aid an investigation.
Mr. Jalloh refused to comply with the request of the Commission,” the
Press Release continued adding how the ACC issued a Section 57(2)
Notice, compelling the Ecobank to submit to the Commission all financial
records and transactions of the Chief Minister.
response, Ecobank clarified that “Professor David John Francis does not
maintain any account with the Bank.” Yet, Ecobank maintained that
Professor Francis has an Ecobank CashXpress pre-paid card since August
2019. The said card, according to Ecobank, denominated only in Leones,
can be issued to both Ecobank account holders and non-account holders.
The investigations also revealed that since he was issued this card,
Professor Francis never loaded the said card with cash and therefore
never used it.
The ACC Press Release ends by encouraging anyone
with evidence to pass such to the Commission furthering that by the
provisions of Section 82(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008, where a
person discloses to the Commission that a public officer, body corporate
or public body is, or has been involved in corruption, he shall incur
no civil or criminal liability as a result of such disclosure.
The Commission reassured the general public of its determination to continue executing its mandate without fear or favor.
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) held its Triennial General Meeting at the Golden Tulip Hotel at Aberdeen in the West End of Freetown with the theme ‘Social media and the Future of Journalism in Sierra Leone’ from the 12th July to 13th July 2019.
On the last day of the meeting, an election was conducted during which paid up SLAJ members from all over the country cast their votes for the candidates of their choice.
The atmosphere was highly charged and the moment was tense as journalists lined up to vote but impressively the whole process was very peaceful as there was no iota of violence that marred the elections.
There was a lot of fun, last minute campaigns were taking place right there on the ground, as journalists were seen cracking jokes, throwing taunts were as some were standing in small circles guessing, within the context of predicting the outcome of the election.
SLAJ has over the years turned out to be a very formidable pressure group which is always at the forefront to agitate for social justice, equality, widening of the political space, gender parity among a host of others.
It is for the simple fact that being the gatekeeper Governments have considered the Fourth Estate to be a force to reckon with.
The Fourth Estate plays key roles in the areas of informing, educating and entertaining the populace on important issues ranging from politics, economics, social matters, the environment and other areas. Today, the social media has become very popular and now an accessible platform to capture a variety of news items but the only snag is that some individuals are misusing it to cause mischief.
The media can influence change in society but journalists must act professionally while practicing the trade in order to avoid defaming unassuming individuals. This is why it is of essence for the creation of opportunities for journalists to be taken through training programs in order to avail them the leeway to imbibe basic skills and techniques to perform professionally.
The New SLAJ Executive; Ahmed Sahid Nasralla aka De Monk (President) defeated his opponent Mustapha M.K. Sesay in the Presidential election (252 Votes), Esther Kine Kargbo is now Vice President thrashing Ahmed Sheriff (186 Votes), Mohamed Asmieu Bah was duly elected as the new SLAJ Secretary General defeating Elias Bangura (196 Votes), Alhaji Manika Kamara – uncontested SLAJ Assistant Secretary General, Fatmata Jalloh-Kamara (161) SLAJ Financial Secretary, Abubakar Singateh Jalloh SLAJ Organising Secretary – uncontested and Princess Gibson – uncontested SLAJ Public Relations Officer.
Political Analysts described this as a ‘Tsunami’ for the minority.
The newly elected President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) has promised to be President for all SLAJ members and not a faction of the association.
He made this statement while delivering his victory speech at the just concluded SLAJ Presidential Elections at Golden Tulip in Freetown.
“Thank you all for voting me as your president for the next three years. I assure you I will not disappoint this confidence you have reposed in me”, the President noted.
“For those who do not have that confidence in me, I say thank you also. I assure you I will surprise you. I now have your mandate. I will be president for all SLAJ members, not a SLAJ faction”.
He congratulated his colleague candidate, Mustapha M K Sesay for sparring with him in this contest in a civil manner. President Nasralla ended by thanking the Kelvin Lewis Executive.
After the jubilation, celebrations die down it is expected that this new SLAJ Executive will positively champion the interests of journalists and solidly address burning issues one of which borders on welfare and repeal of Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act that criminalizes libel and sedition.
On the 12th July 2019, during the opening ceremony the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Triennial General meeting at Golden Tulip-Kimbima Hotel in Freetown, the Honorable Vice President Dr. Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh gave the keynote address.
He started by recognizing the outgoing Executive for their tremendous efforts in reconstructing journalism in Sierra Leone.
He also mentioned that journalism in Sierra Leone today is not well
remunerated, and that if the media has the financial support they need
they would remain professionals.
The Vice President further
stated that journalists need to maintain a high standard of
professionalism stressing that if journalists are credible, if their
stories are well researched, they will earn more respect in society.
He also mentioned that, “he would select more journalists than any
other professionals to attend the Forum for African Summit in France
VP Juldeh mentioned that the Government will relax the
Libel laws but with an alternative because they are going to package
and repackage it so that there would still be a law to guide the work of
He said journalists need a dialogue to establish
Headquarters for them in the country and that the Government is going to
discuss about the subventions for journalists as well as to empower
them to be professionals.
“The media should move from a social
infrastructure to an economic one, which would also be part of our
dialogue approach,” he disclosed.
He concluded by stating that he
sees a bright and common future for journalism in Sierra Leone
underpinning the need for a methodological shift on how journalists do
business adding that they must keep their moral grounds in order to
strengthen State relationship
The Vice President appealed to journalists to make use of the social media to positively inform the public.
Deputizing the Minister of Information and Communications, his Deputy,
Mamadi Goba Kamara thanked His Excellency the President, Dr. Julius
Maada Bio for her appointment saying she sees such as a daunting task,
though challenging saying it is a litmus test to unleash her potentials.
According to her the theme for the triennial SLAJ general assembly
meeting – ‘Social media and the Future of Journalism in Sierra Leone’,
coincides with the Global Conference for Media Freedom that is co-hosted
in London by the UK and Canadian governments from July 10 to 11, 2019.
She said on the 13 June, 2019 delegates of news agencies from five
continents including Sierra Leone, prominent journalists from foremost
world media outlets around 100 countries, held discussions, in Sofia,
within the frameworks of the 6th News Agencies World Congress.
“The focus was on fake news, new models of ownership of news agencies
and new sources of information,” the Deputy Minister disclosed.
Mamadi Goba maintained that the theme of the Triennial General assembly
meeting of SLAJ is actually the theme of the future of mankind because
we can no longer imagine our everyday life without the burgeoning
development of technology and without the increasingly dynamic
information flow we live in. “The impact of journalism in the 21st
century is significant in many respects not least because the media
plays an essential role in strengthening an enlightened citizenry. With
the advent of social media, there is no shortage of news the world over
and Sierra Leone is not an exception,” she posited.
of Journalism is clear, she pointed out, in the sense that the
functional media perspective of informing, educating and entertaining
the general public will always be at play. She noted, however, that with
the proliferation of all sorts of news and issues via social media,
journalism needs to be more proactive furthering how today most issues
are first seen online before traditional newsmen go out to source
She admonished journalists to brace up and
work in line with the Independent Media Commission Code of Practice.
“For instance, the IMC code makes it clear that newspaper and
periodicals should take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading and
distorted information including pictures.
They should take care
to check and fact-check the accuracy of their information prior to
publication,” she admonished adding how as a Government they are taking
steps to protect citizens against Press subjugation.
Information Deputy Minister maintained that while His Excellency
President Bio remains committed to fulfil his campaign promise of
decriminalizing the 1965 Public Order Act, measures will also be put in
place for citizens who are maligned to seek redress through the
appropriate means which includes recourse to the IMC or the Civil Court.
She revealed how efforts by Government to enact appropriate laws for
cyber-crimes which will also provide recourse to redress through civil
action are far advanced.
“The future of journalism in Sierra
Leone is still very bright just if newsmen and women continue to give in
their best and report things with utmost precision,” she expressed
Quoting Fabrizio Moreira ‘Fake news is a big thing in
the field of Social Media Journalism, Fake news can be as simple as
spreading misinformation or as dangerous as smearing hateful
propaganda,” the Deputy Minister ended up wishing SLAJ members a
Thank you all for voting me as your president for the next three years.
I assure you I will not disappoint this confidence you have reposed in me.
I am deeply honoured.
For those who do not have that confidence in me, I say thank you also. I assure you I will surprise you.
I now have your mandate. I will be president for all SLAJ members, not a SLAJ faction.
Congratulations to my colleague candidate, *Mustapha M K Sesay*, for
sparring with me in this contest in a civil manner. Together we have
shown the national body politic how candidates should participate in
I recognise your contribution to SLAJ. You
are an asset to SLAJ. My administration will work with you. This is also
Fellow colleagues, this victory is proof that you believed in my agenda.
You believed that welfare, gender, mentorship and unity are more important to SLAJ than ID cards, library and chairs.
Together, we’ll pursue this agenda to the last.
We have noted the challenge the Hon Vice President of our beloved
country, *Dr. Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh*, threw at us during the opening
session of this Triennial Conference. We are greatly encouraged by the
fact that the issues he raised resonated with our SALT Manifesto under
We accept the challenge and we will initiate a process to start engagement with the current government through the VP’s office.
I assure you that my administration will uphold the independence and
neutrality of SLAJ. We will be vocal when necessary, and we will do so
without prejudice, fear or favour.
My appreciation goes to the outgoing Kelvin Lewis-led executive. Thank
you especially to you my outgoing President Kelvin Lewis, for giving me
the opportunity to assume leadership roles within your executive which
helped prepared me for my presidential ambition. God bless you.
To all those who supported us morally and financially throughout this
journey; the goodwill and prayers from the public; this is also your
victory. Thank you very much.
My colleagues in the new Executive,
congratulations. Let’s work as a team to pursue this SALT agenda. I
count on your commitment, cooperation and honesty.
my wife Margaret; children- Andre, Chomalae & Mikayla- thank you for
enduring weeks without me at home. I love you all.
Fellow colleagues, we have taken the first step in this journey.
In the aftermath of a three-day workshop held on the 5th – the 7th March 2019, journalists from community and national radio stations in Sierra Leone established a unique kind of national network against trafficking in persons (TiP) in the country. Through radio broadcasts, the network will contribute to educate Sierra Leoneans on the identification of fake job offers, and report suspected cases of trafficking to the national anti-trafficking task force.
Communication for Development Workshop was organized through the Africa
Regional Migration Programme implemented in Sierra Leone with funding
from the US Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. The
establishment of the network is the result of a three-day (5-7 March)
workshop on Communication for Development (C4D) during which 27 Sierra
Leonean radio journalists debated on the best practices to reporting and
raising awareness on trafficking in persons in Sierra Leone.
According to the US Department of State 2018 Trafficking in Persons
Report, Sierra Leone is both a source and destination country. Forced
labour and sexual exploitation are the main purposes of human
trafficking in and from the country.
Traffickers recruit boys
and girls as young as nine years old from rural provinces to urban and
mining centres for exploitation in sex trafficking and forced labour in
domestic service, artisanal diamond and granite mining, petty trading,
rock quarrying, street crime, and begging.
Some Sierra Leoneans,
especially young women, are also coerced by sham recruitment and
placement agencies, and then smuggled across international borders to be
subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking primarily in Gulf
During the debate, Mohamed Sajuma of Radio Mojcar
said “This is a first step towards what we hope will be a long-term
strategy to help Sierra Leoneans better understand the dangers of
trafficking in persons.”
In her own contribution, Margaret
Mansaray from Radio Bintumani, a community radio located in Kabala in
Northern Sierra Leone, said that “This is the first time that such a
network is established in Sierra Leone. I hope that it will be a place
where we can learn from each other, and that it will foster good
journalistic practices with regard to trafficking in persons in Sierra
Leone,” said Margaret Mansaray from Radio Bintumani, a community radio
located in Kabala in Northern Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone recent
history of civil war, Ebola and the closing down of operations of major
iron ore mining companies in the country exacerbated an already dismal
situation characterised by high level of joblessness.
This appalling situation fuelled the scourge of trafficking in persons for forced labour.
“More than half of the youth population is unemployed so when an
exciting offer, especially to go abroad, is presented, most young people
seize it, often without checking its authenticity,” explained Sanusi
Savage, Head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
office in Sierra Leone.
“Young people’s desperation in the face
of hardship often blinds them to the scams that permeate the
recruitment sector,” Sanusi added.
Over seven weeks, the
journalists will collaborate on the development and broadcasting of a
seven-episode radio series to raise awareness on the risks and dangers
of both domestic and transnational trafficking in Sierra Leone, as well
as the methods for identifying and reporting suspected cases of