Sunday, January 29, 2017

Editor feels let down by journalist association

SLAJ Secretary General, Nasralla
By Kemo Cham

[First published on] An editor under investigation for contempt of parliament has accused the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) of betrayal.
Moisa Sallu Keikura, editor of the tri-weekly Future newspaper, was briefly detained by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Sierra Leone Police last week. He said it was on the orders of the country’s parliament which accused him of contempt.
He’d angered the House of Representatives with a letter they deemed as ‘disrespectful’.

Keikura had written the letter requesting for information from the Clerk of Parliament as part of an investigation he was conducting in relation to allegations of misappropriation of public funds. SLAJ, in a statement, distanced itself from the journalist and asked him to apologise to parliament for the wording of the letter.
Keikura told Politico that he was willing to apologise but that he was disappointed with how the journalist body handled the matter.
“I am very much disappointed with the way SLAJ handled the matter,’ he said on a telephone interview.
Within the last one month parliament has been on the spotlight over the issue which started with a publication by the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), a UK registered NGO with focus on Sierra Leone, which accused MPs of failing to properly account for funds allocated to them within the last five years. The money amounts to Le120 billion, allocated as part of the Constituency Development Fund.
Parliamentary officials declared CHRDI illegal and said they wouldn’t respond to a nonexistent organization. They also cautioned the media and the general public to be mindful about how they consume the statements from the NGO which has declared a campaign on the issue.
Keikura said to ensure accurate reportage, his paper decided to reach parliament for clarification on certain issues. The editor said he’d written two letters to the parliament which never responded to him.
“Even at the press conference parliament did not address the issue properly. And I needed to get clarification before publishing,” he said.
He said when he finally got in touch with someone on the phone at the parliament he was asked to provide proof of legality of his newspaper before he could be granted an interview.
On his third letter, Keikura gave parliament a 14-day ultimatum to respond to him or else he would publish what information he had. He said he also asked the parliament to check with the Independent Media Commission if they wanted to confirm the status of his paper.
The journalist believed that’s what could have angered the MPs.
He admitted though that he was angry when he wrote the letter. But he insisted he never intended to cause stir.
Keikura is unhappy with SLAJ because he said the umbrella journalist body did not consult him to get his side of the story before issuing out its statement which slammed him for being disrespectful.
SLAJ Secretary General, Ahmed Sahid Nasrallah, told Politico on Tuesday that the journalist body stood by its statement. Nasrallah reiterated the contents of SLAJ’s statement. He said even though Keikura wasn’t a registered member of SLAJ, they deemed it fit to intervene because it concerned “a very important arm of government.”
“But he shouldn’t have written with anger to parliament they way he did, whatever the allegations are,” the SLAJ Secretary General told me on a telephone interview.
Keikura said he had been reporting to parliament on a daily basis since his release as condition for his bail.
But Nasrallah said the journalist wasn’t referred to the CID for detention. He said the parliamentary majority leader who involved the police did so, with the knowledge of SLAJ, to ensure the journalist was available whenever they called upon him for questioning. 

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