The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) joins other organisations to observe the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ today Tuesday 2nd November, 2021.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in a General Assembly Resolution.

The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity. The date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.

This landmark resolution condemns all attacks and violence against journalists and media workers. It also urges Member States to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers, bring to justice perpetrators of crimes against journalists and media workers, and ensure that victims have access to appropriate remedies.

Since 2018, the MRCG with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the United States of America has been monitoring and publishing reports on press freedom and freedom of expression issues in Sierra Leone, including invitations, intimidations, attacks, assaults, arrests, detentions and prosecution of journalists and civil society activists.

The last report on ‘Press Freedom in Sierra Leone’ May 2021, notes that the MRCG has so far monitored 35 cases; 26 had been concluded, settled, resolved, dropped or abandoned because of lack of progress; three were in court; and six under police investigation/inconclusive/stalled. Although there are no criminal and seditious libel law provisions today in our law books, the reports showed that there are still active libel cases in court. However, libel related cases that were under police investigations had been reportedly closed since the law was repealed.

The MRCG has brought to the attention of the Ministry of Information and Communication the inconclusive cases. The Ministry has responded through a letter indicating that action is being taken to address the issues. A letter had been written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to look into the matters. We call on the ministry to expedite the process.

“As we observe the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ today, the MRCG reminds the Hon. Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, of a petition sent to him by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and MRCG to respectfully seek his intervention to end the ongoing prosecution of journalist, Fayia Amara Fayia of the Standard Times newspaper,” says Dr. Francis Sowa, National Coordinator of the MRCG.

The MRCG notes that since the petition was sent to the Minister of Information, the matter had not been called in court. But the organization still calls for an official end to the matter.

The MRCG also notes that issues relating to the safety and security of journalists go beyond politicians and the police, as there are reports of attacks on journalists from local authorities, youth and members of the public.

The MRCG wants to remind media owners and managers that one of its reports shows that majority of the media houses lacked a safety and security policy and there were concerns about addressing the welfare of journalists. These are all safety and security issues, the organization adds.

The MRCG therefore continues to call on the Government, politicians, media organizations, media owners and managers, civil society associations and members of the public to ensure the safety and security of journalists across the country at all times.