Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sierra Leone journalist forced into hiding



By Kemo Cham
A radio presenter in Koidu Town in Sierra Leone’s eastern Kono District went into hiding last week in fear of being arrested over allegation of incitement.
Sahr Amadu Komba, Station Manager of the Eastern Radio in Koidu, said he was been pursued for a program he hosted which discussed the cause of a flooding that left the small diamond-rich town isolated and cut off from the main highway that linked it to the capital Freetown.
Heavy downpours last week left a new bypass constructed as an alternative to the main route leading into the town completely cut off due to the flooding. The bypass had been constructed after the main route was made inaccessible due to a controversial mining project sanctioned by the government.
People were stranded on both sides of the makeshift road, and according to reports, several houses were affected along the route.
These were the issues been discussed on a breakfast radio talk show in the town hosted by Komba.
Apparently, the authorities were not happy with the nature of the discussion.

Bridging the gap between the media and judiciary in Sierra Leone



By Kemo Cham
In the small conference room in the offices of the civil society organization Campaign For Good Governance (CGG), a group of journalists were recently discussing their experiences covering the Sierra Leone judiciary. This is part of ongoing efforts to reform one of the world’s most compromised justice systems.
That discussion is part of a project called Access Sierra Leone, an independent initiative funded by the Partnership for Democratic Change in the United States. A major aspect of it is the ‘Bridging the Gap Between the media and the judiciary.
Court reporting is not a fond thing to do as a journalist in Sierra Leone, and the experiences as heard from the narration of these journalists speak it all. They told stories about officials demanding money to access copies of judgments, magistrates asking journalists out of court in select hearings because they did not want them to hear certain revelations.

CPJ gets UN accreditation



By Kemo Cham
After a lengthy waiting, the media rights group the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has been granted a consultative status at the United Nations.
The move announced last week followed a tedious process that ended up in voting by the United Nations Economic Social Council (ECOSOC).
With this status CPJ, which is headquartered in New York, will be allowed to access UN bodies and processes, such as the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where accredited NGOs can deliver a counter-narrative to states.
CPJ, an independent nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting press freedom worldwide by defending the rights of journalists to report without fear. In existence for over 30 years, it also documents attacks and abuses against journalists everywhere in the world.
“The council’s vote today [Monday July 25] recognizes the important role that CPJ has played and continues to play at the UN by providing expert knowledge and analysis on press freedom related issues,” Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ, was quoted in a statement released by the press freedom body.

Sierra Leone declares Canadian journalist wanted



By Kemo Cham
The Sierra Leone government has declared “wanted” a freelance Canadian journalist living and working in the country. The authorities say Nina Devries is wanted over a report for the Qatar-based television network, Al Jazeera, which they deemed as false.
Officials at the Ministry of Information and Communication said last week that Nina was being sought for her report on freedom of expression in the country in which she interviewed popular musician Emmerson Bockarie.
In the report aired by the network two weeks ago, Emmerson decried apparent government censorship against him since the release of his record-breaking album ‘Munku Boss Pan Marches.’
Agibu Jalloh, Outreach Coordinator at the Office of Government Spokesman in the Ministry of Information, said the report which went viral on social media was a fabrication. He told journalists at a press conference that the reporter made up some of the content of her report.

SLAJ condemns ‘disgraceful’ detention of journalist




By Kemo Cham
The Sierra Leone Association of journalists (SLAJ) on Monday reacted angrily to the detention of a journalist on allegation of criminal defamation.
Journalist Sam Lahai, who is based in Kenema, was detained over the week end, reportedly on the orders of Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Major (Rtd) Ismail Sengu Koroma. The minister, who alleged that he’d been defamed in an article written by the journalist, has denied ordering his arrest. He said he only reported the matter to the police.
Lahai was arrested under the notorious criminal libel law. He spent two day in detention. By afternoon on Monday he had been released on bail.
SLAJ president Kevin Lewis in an interview Monday morning described the minister’s action as disgraceful. He said it pointed to the urgent need to expunge the criminal libel law from the laws of the country
“I respect the minister but this Act of his is disgraceful,” Lewis told Radio Democracy.
A statement by SLAJ later in the day said it was unacceptable that even as the justice sector was undergoing salient reforms the CID [Criminal Investigation Department of the Sierra Leone Police] continued to detain accused journalists and critical citizens on weekends without investigation.

Sierra Leone mourns popular female journalist



By Kemo Cham
Sierra Leonean journalists are mourning the death of one of the country’s best known female journalists.
Manja Parkinson, better known as Manja Balema Samba, died on Sunday, according to sources.
She was Deputy Station Manager of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation in the southern city of Bo.
In a statement attributed to the management of SLBC and distributed via social media, the Corporation said Mrs Parkinson had for the past few months gone unusually slow with seldom TV appearances. It said she felt embattled by ill health but showed no signs of succombing anytime soon.
“Manjia’s distinctive voice, sense of humour and hard work are reasons why her memory shall never be extinguished from our minds,” the statement said.
Manjia joined the former Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service in 1999. She would later join the United Nations Radio in 2004 and became part of the SLBC when both entities (UN Radio and SLBS) were merged.
Manjia is fairly traveled both within and outside the country, including Europe and the US. She was one of the African journalists who covered the 2012 US Presidential Elections.

CNN African journalist award shortlist revealed



By Kemo Cham
The CNN African Journalist award list has been revealed.
A statement unveiled last week by the organizers indicates that South Africans and Nigerians continue their dominance over the coveted yearly contest organized by the US-based television network, CNN and the South Africa-based Multi Choice company.
The competition honors the best the journalism profession on the continent.
The independent panel of judges worked through about 1600 entries submitted for the 2016 edition from 38 countries.
South Africa and Nigeria has each seven names in the shortlist that also include journalists from Ghana, Mozambiqu, and Kenya.
The organizers say the award is aimed at encouraging excellence in journalism while rewarding the hard working members of the profession.