The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) on Friday, 20th October 2023 commended the AU, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth for their successfully mediated political dialogue between the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) political party, and the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion (ICPN) for steering the process.
SLAJ further congratulated the GoSL and the APC for committing their signatures to the mediation communiqué- the Bintumani Agreement for National Unity, and urged both parties to honour the resolutions in the agreement.
Since the June 24 elections, as highlighted by both local and International Observers, SLAJ has been very critical in providing increased access to credible and factual information about the elections and electoral education for citizens through its UNDP I-Verify and NDI SuperNewsRooms platforms. Members of SLAJ across the country were also trained on conflict-sensitive and election reporting to contribute to peaceful elections, peace-building, and the successful mediation that has been achieved.
In light of this, SLAJ has called on journalists and media houses to continue to play their part in promoting the mediation outcome in line with conflict-sensitive reporting guidelines to prevent fanning the already dying flames of the GoSL-APC impasse.
It stated during consultative meetings with the Mediation Team that SLAJ believes in resolving national issues through consensus building, engagement, consultation, and dialogue and therefore will continue to appeal to the GoSL and the Opposition parties to always collaborate in the interest of the nation and the People of Sierra Leone, uphold democratic good governance best practices, and respect fundamental human rights at all times.
The Association furthered that it looks forward to the GoSL and opposition parties working towards reforming the country’s electoral laws, reviewing the political system to get rid of the divisive winner-takes-all tradition, de-politicising the civil service, MDAs, civil society, the media, and other vital sectors, and making governance an opportunity to serve one’s country rather than one’s political party, family, relatives, and friends.
SLAJ also urges Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad not to give up on their beloved country but to develop a positive mindset of seeing the national glass half-full and support genuinely to fill it so that every Sierra Leonean, irrespective of allegiance and status, will drink from it.
In another development, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) held a crucial meeting with the National Telecommunications Authority (NatCA) to make a compelling case for the reduction of license fees for community radio stations.
SLAJ President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, emphasized the vital role of community radio stations in disseminating Government activities, encouraging citizens’ involvement in governance and called on Government to support them given the country’s current challenging economic circumstances, which have severely impacted their operational costs.
“Economically, we are going through an exceptionally challenging period in our nation’s history, and the media sector is significantly affected. Community radio stations, in particular, struggle to maintain their daily broadcasts. They operate with limited financial resources and often lack proper governance structures. Because of the crucial role they play in providing information to remote communities, we have been engaging with the Government to support these stations. For NatCA, the starting point can be reducing their license fees and de-linking them from the U.S. dollar,” Nasralla stated during a courtesy meeting held on October 18, 2023.
In response, the new Director General of NatCA, Amara Brewah, expressed his gratitude for SLAJ’s visit and assured the delegation that NatCA would examine the issues raised. However, Brewah noted that NatCA must also consider generating revenue as an authority when reviewing license fees.
On the relationship between NatCA and IMC, Brewah affirmed that they enjoy a positive and professional collaboration and plan to continue periodic meetings.
However, he expressed reservations about completely de-linking broadcast license fees from the U.S. dollar due to the depreciating status of the Leone against the dollar.
The meeting marked a significant step in addressing the challenges faced by community radio stations in Sierra Leone, and the dialogue between SLAJ and NatCA is expected to continue as both parties work towards a solution.