By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In a Press Release dated 15th June, 2023 it was lamentably stated by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) that it vehemently condemns attacks on its former President, Umaru Fofana, by members and supporters of the All People’s Congress (APC) during the party Flagbearer’s address to the media on Wednesday, 14th June, 2022 at the New Brookfields Hotel on Jomo Kenyatta Road in Freetown.
The attack on Umaru Fofana came barely a few days after Adebayor incited APC members to go up against media houses, citing AYV and 98.1 as primary targets.
According to the Press Statement of SLAJ, Umaru Fofana, was officially invited by the APC to cover the event and was confronted just outside the hall as he was hurrying to file his report by a large group of APC supporters who directed offensive remarks towards his mother.
According to Umaru, their hostility persisted as they pursued him to the hotel carpark, where they continued to subject him to further indecent language and gestures, and was threatened physically but he was rescued by some onlookers and a fellow journalist who guided him to a secure location.
SLAJ bemoans that this is not the first time the BBC and Reuters broadcaster have encountered similar attacks from both members and supporters of the APC, with some originating from influential figures within the party.
According to SLAJ, Fofana had brought it to the attention of the APC leadership every time he was attacked by the party’s supporters and members, who have never publicly condemned the action of their members or took any other action.
“This (attack on Fofana) is so unfortunate and appalling, coming from a party that invited journalists to listen to their grievances and to help convey them to the wider public. Political parties must note that it is also their responsibility to ensure the safety and security of journalists in the course of their duty, especially during the elections period,” said SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla.
SLAJ says it is calling on the APC to publicly denounce the recent attack on Fofana unequivocally and take appropriate action and proactive measures to encourage their supporters to desist from attacking journalists verbally and physically.
“We also call on all political parties and candidates contesting the June 24 elections to ensure the safety and well-being of journalists and other citizens engaging in their democratic duties at all times, especially with elections approaching and the political tension rising between political parties,” the Association demanded.
Meanwhile, SLAJ also says it is privy to the fact that the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Sidi Yayah Tunis, confirmed receiving a complaint from Fofana, and he promised to take it up with the party’s leadership.
“It is unfortunate and something we do not condone. None of us was present when it happened, but we will investigate and try to identify who was involved so we take strong action,” he assured.
According to the Publisher of The Calabash Newspaper, Amin Kef Sesay, it must be hammered that in a democratic society, journalists play a crucial role in keeping the public informed about Government activities and holding those in power accountable.
He said, however, journalists often face harassment and intimidation from politicians who seek to control the narrative and in that respect, it is essential for politicians to respect the freedom of the Press and allow journalists to do their work without interference or molestation.
He also maintained that additionally measures should be put in place to protect journalists before, during and after elections, as they are especially vulnerable during these times. Protecting the Freedom of the Press is essential for maintaining a healthy democracy, he concluded.