Hands Off PPG! West African Parliamentary Press Corps Blasts Parliament

By Amin Kef Sesay

In the impasse which emanated from the decision by the leadership of the Sierra Leone Parliament to reconstitute the Parliamentary Press Gallery leadership, the West African Parliamentary Press Corps (WAPPC) is now the latest entity that has joined the debate.

It said, in a letter written to the Clerk of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Paran Umar Tarawally and signed by Barr. Edwin Andrew Arthur in Ghana as President and   Ezrel E. Tabiowo, (FIMC, CMC, Fsca, FCP) as Secretary-General  from Nigeria  ,WAPPC says its attention of the West African Parliamentary Press Corps (WAPPC) has been drawn to a Public Notice from the former’s office, dated the 27th of July, 2021, announcing the reconstitution of the Parliamentary Press Gallery leadership pursuant to Standing Order 80 of the House Rules of Procedure.

WAPPC continued that as a responsible body of Parliamentary Reporters in the West African sub- region, they believe strongly that the involvement of Parliament in the reconstitution of the Press Gallery leadership in the absence of any election, violates Article 32 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance entered into by member States.

It added that for the purpose of clarity, Article 32 under Section VII on page 18 of the document, seeks to uphold the Rule of Law, Human Rights and Good Governance, with member States agreeing “that good governance and press freedom are essential for presser social Justice, preventing conflict, guaranteeing political stability and peace and for strengthening democracy.”

WAPPC stated that in view of the above, it is their position that the recent reconstitution exercise of the Sierra-Leonean Press Gallery leadership by Parliament, not only interferes with the independence of the media and undermines press freedom, but also speaks poorly of the integrity of Parliament to entrench democratic ideals in its day-to-day dealings with the media and public.

It furthered that accordingly, in keeping with their responsibilities as a professional body charged with regulating the professional conduct of Parliamentary Journalists in the West African sub-region, they express their interest to set in motion the necessary machineries that would lead to a final resolution of all pending issues between Parliament and the Press Gallery, and immediately see to the conduct of a transparent election to produce a new Executive for the latter three months from now.

It could be recalled that on the 4th August 2021the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) ,Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, wrote a letter to the Clerk of Parliament in which he registered the Association’s disapproval over the move by the leadership of Parliament to reconstitute an Interim Executive to administer the affairs of the Parliamentary Press Gallery (PPG).

The President of SLAJ made it categorically clear that the Association’s disapproval is based on the fact  that SLAJ (as the parent body) was not consulted; that they  believe the action by the Honourable Clerk to interfere with the membership and administration and operation of the PPG will undermine the independence of the press corps and ultimately their duty to hold Parliament to account.

He also highlighted that they also believe that the action by the Honourable Clerk will further compound the numerous challenges facing the PPG and which SLAJ has been seeking to address.

In another development, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in collaboration with the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Guild of Newspaper Editors (GoNE), and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists Electoral Commission (SLAJEC), on Thursday 2nd and Tuesday 7th September 2021 engaged the membership of the Sierra Leone Parliamentary Press Gallery (SLPPG) on the SLPPG Reformation Committee (SLLPG-RC) Report. The engagements were to also chart the way forward for an effective and independent association of journalists reporting on Parliament.

It was resolved by the parties to set up two committees: a Constitution and Membership Committee to review the SLPPG constitution and membership database and a Finance and Assets Committee to look into the finances and assets of the SLPPG.

The meeting also agreed that SLAJ will appoint one member each with the requisite qualification and experience to serve as technical guide for each committee.

It was said that after the submission of the reports, another meeting will be convened for discussion and adoption of the way forward for the SLPPG, which will, among other things, include the conduct of elections for a new SLPPG Executive.


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