SLAJ Unveils Media Manifesto: “The Media We Want”

By Foday Moriba Conteh

In commemorating the Association’s 52nd birthday anniversary, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in partnership with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), through funds from the European Union, has on Monday 5th June, 2023 launched the media manifesto titled: “The Media We Want”. The launching ceremony which was graced by stakeholders and media practitioners was held at the New Brookfields Hotel on New England Ville in Freetown.

The launch of the Manifesto which comes weeks before the upcoming general elections scheduled for June 24th 2023 presents a comprehensive roadmap of achievable actions and strategies aimed at advancing media freedom, professionalism, viability, gender equality, inclusivity, journalist safety, and media literacy in Sierra Leone.

In his welcome address, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said the fortunes of the media in Sierra Leone actually started with the historic repeal in 2020 of the 55-year-old criminal and seditious libel law in Part 5 of the Public Order Act, 1965 that hindered media freedom in the country for half a century, adding that since the repeal, Sierra Leone subsequently made significant progress in press freedom rankings in the world and in 2020 also, a new IMC Act was passed which has strengthened the Commission’s regulatory powers and provisions to address the perennial problem of conditions of service of journalists.

He pointed out that in 2022, the Government, media stakeholders and partners hosted the first Media Viability and Investment Conference in April and the conference was to promote and call for a viable media ecosystem that works in the public interest with the essential tools to advance democracy, prosperity and stability of which he said that Seven key recommendations came out of that historic conference which are woven into the manifesto.

He noted that despite all of these significant strides, there is a lot more work to be done to realize the actual impact on the media landscape in Sierra Leone and that they want to see these gains reflect in the viability or prosperity of the media; in quality output from the media; and in the welfare of journalists in Sierra Leone, furthering that in essence, this is the goal of the media manifesto with critical aspects which include freedom and independence; empowerment and inclusivity.

The President maintained that the manifesto is therefore aimed at consolidating the significant gains they have made in the last five years and represents their collective vision and aspirations as journalists for the media we want in the next years.

“We want the buy-in of politicians and hope that this document will serve as the framework for all future interventions in the media sector in Sierra Leone. SLAJ and other media stakeholders will continue to work together to follow up on the implementation of this manifesto to ensure that it is actually manifested in the media landscape in Sierra Leone,” he revealed.

He concluded by recognizing the support of and consultations with their various partners in enriching the manifesto: the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, Bournemouth University (BU) UK, BBC Media Action Sierra Leone, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), and the Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC); and the consultant, Dr. Francis Sowa, Dr. Isaac Massaquoi, who contributed the original concept of this manifesto and finally, European Union for funding the development of the manifesto through International IDEA.

Giving his chairman opening remarks, the Chairman of the Independent Media Commission, Dr. Victor Massaquoi, emphasized that the media manifesto aligns with a new political logic, promoting media development, freedom, and regulation without unnecessary restrictions.

He acknowledged the significance of this milestone in shaping the media landscape of Sierra Leone.

The European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Amb Manuel Muller, reiterated the EU’s commitment to supporting the media and strengthening its capacity.

He pledged continued assistance in protecting media freedom and pluralism through various initiatives, recognizing the crucial role of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) in regulating the media landscape and upholding ethical and professional standards.

The Ambassador stated that the EU, through International IDEA, will provide equipment and institutional support to enable the IMC to effectively implement its renewed and fortified mandate as outlined in the IMC Act of 2020.

In his presentation of the Media Manifesto, the Consultant of the manifesto, Dr. Francis Sowa said although there have been developments in the media ecosystem in Sierra Leone, a lot has to be done to ensure a free, independent, vibrant and viable media and that based on the consultations with media owners, journalism associations, and other stakeholders, and analysis from the national survey, eight priorities emerged.

He stated that the manifesto presents eight key priorities which include, Promote and Protect Media Freedom; Safety and Security of Journalists  Access to Information; Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment; Media Professionalism and Capacity Building; Media Sustainability and Viability; Welfare of Journalists; and Media Literacy.

Closing the ceremony was the official launch of the Media Manifesto by the Former President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Kelvin Lewis which he described as a laudable venture towards the development of the media landscape in the country.


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