''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 7

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Sunday May 10, 2015 - World Press Freedom Day was marked a week ago on May 3, 2015 and the theme this year sends a clear message to  those doing their utmost to suppress press freedom, freedom of expression and association. SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis - he has called for the lifting of the state of emergency

This year's Theme: "Let Journalism Thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital age" should be a wake-up call to all those who care about press freedom and expression in Sierra Leone that the days of "careless talk" should have been confined to the annals of despotic rule in Sierra Leone.

The message this year is telling despotic governments that journalism must be allowed to thrive, that the freedom to say what is affecting the welfare of any citizen must be allowed. This message should be heeded by the rat and his gang at State House who believe that they should not be criticised, that they should be allowed to trample on the basic rights of Sierra Leoneans who refuse to sing from their sheets of massive corruption, uncaring attitude and tampering with the Constitution to achieve personal gains.

This despite what the country and Sierra Leoneans had to endure when during 24 years of All Peoples Congress despotic and rights-abusing rule all those thought to be opponents were incarcerated on many a false charge with those believed to be a threat to their continuing rule hanged at the Pademba Road prison. Their victims included not only soldiers and civilians belonging to other political groups, but even those who were members of the then ruling APC but were believed to be disruptive of the grand master plan of Sierra Leone's Great Satan, the one and only Bandaylay Pass Ar Die aka Siaka Probyn Stevens.

A day after this, on 4th May 2015, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, (SLAJ) Kelvin  Lewis in a message, no doubt on behalf of the organisation and all decent and professional journalists as well as those who are in it for the money and kudos from the rat noted -

"We recall that even though a State of Emergency was imposed to deal with the Ebola outbreak yet the exceptional powers granted the President under that regulation was first used to jail journalist David Tam Baryoh. Clearly journalism cannot thrive under such draconian constraints. As devastating as the Ebola outbreak is some good things however emerged out of it. For once all media practitioners became unified, putting aside political and commercial interests to fight the common enemy - Ebola. 

Ebola also provided us with the opportunity to experiment with a mentoring program which saw a senior journalist travelling with young inexperienced reporters, to regions which were declaring 42 days Ebola free, and helping them to report objectively. More however needs to be done to work towards better reporting in the profession. Let me salute women in the media for the strides they are making. An increasing number of women now head radio stations and even now a newspaper. While this cannot account for even 10% of the media landscape, I would encourage more women to come forward and help reduce the gender gap in the media landscape." 

Kelvin's message had this line which we consider most disturbing especially in the electronic age - "It is clear that the advent of new media characterized by Facebook, whatsapp and twitter has posed new challenges for the practice of journalists. Ordinary people have now become citizen journalists and as such maintaining the ethics is posing new challenges along with the threats to the security of journalists and the protection of their sources. 

Already one such citizen has been jailed for a whatsapp post critical of the President. This shows the decreasing democratic space highlighted earlier and the risk of labelling all such citizens as journalist when they are not media practitioners."

This is extremely worrisome and we would call on all journalists, governments and friends of Sierra Leone within and outside the country to condemn such action by the rat and this again highlights our fears that the judiciary is compromised thereby putting the freedom and rights of citizens at risk. The rat must be stopped.

We can now understand why a report from one of the cesspits of the rat talks about prodemocracy demonstrators in London insisting that they heard these Sierra Leoneans hurling abuses at Prime Minister David Cameron. Well the elections are now over and Mr Cameron is in again as Prime Minister. We would therefore urge the rat and his sewer-crawling gbatolites (shameless praise singers to boot) not to take this "serious matter" lying down. They should take those recordings and translations to Number 10 Downing Street so that Mr Cameron can try these prodemocrats and have the courts jail them. How dare they insult the Prime Minister?!!!

The only problem we see here is - the UK is a democratic country which respects freedom of expression.

We have been receiving reports of certain operatives employed by the rat at the tax payers expense not only physically monitoring the movements of people they consider "enemies of the State" and these include journalists not on the payroll of the rat, but that they are actually listening in to telephone and other conversations as well as using sophisticated electronic eavesdropping and interception techniques acquired from a number of countries. Well as one title of the famous James Hadley Chase novel has it - "The Guilty are Afraid"UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova

We would want to remind the rat - that journalists who do not tow the line of despots and are termed "Enemies of the State" have seen it all and that nothing is new under the sun. We would want to remind the rat - that journalists will always be there to record for posterity the rise and fall of all leaders - be they good, bad or ugly and that threats and intimidation will never cower the spirit of the profession. It is quite clear to even those who had tried to be ostrich-like in analysing current events in Sierra Leone, that AFRC Mark2 will never succeed in muzzling free speech and expression.

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists has also called for the removal of the current state of emergency which was introduced as a means of dealing with the Ebola scourge. This call is quite in place as the rat is now abusing this to harass and terrorise anyone thought to be critical of the rat's actions.

"However as we look forward to the coming days and weeks let me reiterate SLAJ’s call for the State of Emergency to be removed. Our democratic credentials are being badly damaged by the selective implementation of the regulations. The fundamental human rights of citizens to free expression, especially the right to hold a different opinion and demonstrate is being denied. This threatens peaceful coexistence and democratic inclusion." 

My we remind the rat - lest he's forgotten or may not have known - that Kelvin Lewis was among journalists who were tormented and nearly killed by his mentors, the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil otherwise known as the beasts. He was among those who were locked up in those hot forty foot containers that had insufficient air for those so incarcerated at the military base at Cockerill in Western tip of Freetown.

His call for responsible journalism is also noted - "In light of the prevailing circumstances, I call on all journalists to be responsible in their general conduct and professional in their reporting. Let me end by quoting Aidan White – “Journalism is the conscience of democracy, it will survive and prosper, as long as it remains independent and sticks to its ethical base.” 

Farther afield, this is part of a report on what US President Barack Obama said on this day. Here's President Obama - "Well, as many of you know, Sunday is World Press Freedom Day, a day in which we reaffirm the vital role that a free press plays in democracy and shining a light on the many challenges, cruelties and also hopeful stories that exist in countries all around the world. Journalists give all of us, as citizens, the chance to know the truth about our countries, ourselves, our governments. That makes us better. It makes us stronger. It gives voice to the voiceless, exposes injustice, and holds leaders like me accountable. Unfortunately, in too many places around the world, a free press is under attack by governments that want to avoid the truth or mistrust the ability of citizens to make their own decisions. Journalists are harassed, sometimes even killed. Independent outlets are shut down. Dissent is silenced. And freedom of expression is stifled."

UN Chief Scribe Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein have encapsulated what the day means to the world. "Quality journalism enables citizens to make informed decisions about their society’s development. It also works to expose injustice, corruption, and the abuse of power. For this, journalism must be able to thrive, in an enabling environment in which they can work independently and without undue interference and in conditions of safety."

We are again worried, extremely worried to hear that many journalists and media outlets in Sierra Leone have been compromised and are now on the payroll of the rat who leaves no stone unturned in his corrupt practices to keep this section of Sierra Leone society on-side. We would urge those drinking deep from the putrid sewers of corruption to rethink their role in society and for the common good of all Sierra Leoneans. You are the conscience of society.

We leave you with these words from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon -

"Thriving journalism – whether in digital or more traditional form – must be anchored in quality reporting and information dissemination to all segments of society. Women play a critical, yet far too neglected, role in in today’s media landscape. On this Day, I call on all governments, societies and individuals to uphold the principles put forward by Member States on the need for the free exchange of information and ideas, both within and among nations.

We must commit to ensure that the safety and human rights of journalists are protected, independent of the political, socio-economic or cultural pressures that may threaten, impede or deter their freedom to keep the world informed."


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