Targeting journalists takes a toll on ‘societies as a whole’ – UN chief

UNAMA/Fardin Waezi
A mural on a blast wall in downtown Kabul commemorates journalists killed in Afghanistan in 2016.

When journalists are targeted, “societies as a whole pay a price”, the UN chief said on Monday, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

“If we do not protect journalists, our ability to remain informed and make evidence-based decisions is severely hampered”, Secretary-General António Guterres spelled out in his message for the day.  

And when they cannot safely do their jobs, “we lose an important defense against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation that has spread online”, he added.

Free press ‘essential’ 

There were at least 21 attacks on journalists covering protests in the first half of 2020 – equal to the number of such attacks in the whole of 2017, Mr. Guterres said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted new perils for journalists and media workers, the UN chief reiterated his call for a “free press that can play its essential role in peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights”.

“Fact-based news and analysis depend on the protection and safety of journalists conducting independent reporting, rooted in the fundamental tenet: ‘journalism without fear or favour’”, he concluded.

Adverse consequences

In her message, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), maintained that through accurate reporting, journalists “bring truth to light”.

However, she noted that for too many “telling the truth comes at a price”.

While journalists are in “a unique and compelling position” to “speak truth to power”, the UNESCO chief observed that the two “do not always see eye to eye”.

Between 2010 and 2019, close to 900 journalists were killed while doing their job, according Ms. Azoulay – more than 150 in the last two years alone. 

Journalists in crosshairs

Although many have lost their lives covering conflicts, far more are being killed for investigating issues such as corruption, trafficking, political wrongdoing, human rights violations and environmental issues. 

And death is not the only risk journalists are facing.

“Attacks on the press can take the form of threats, kidnappings, arrests, imprisonments or offline and online harassment with women being targeted in particular”, the UNESCO chief elaborated. 

Preserving freedom

Even though the 2019 death toll for journalists was the lowest in a decade, the UN official pointed out that wider attacks are continuing “at an alarming rate”. 

She noted that in seven-out-of-eight killings, the perpetrators go unpunished, and asserted: “We can and should do more”.

“Journalists are essential in preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, she explained. “When journalists are attacked with impunity, there is a breakdown in security and judicial systems for all”. 

End impunity

UNESCO commemorates the day annually on 2 November to raise awareness and highlight some of the specific risks that journalists face in their quest to uncover the truth.

“On this day, I call on…all Member States and international and non-governmental organizations to join forces to guarantee the safety of journalists and root out impunity”, said the UNESCO chief.

“Only by investigating and prosecuting crimes against media professionals can we guarantee access to information and freedom of expression”. 

Unleashing information

UNESCO also marked the day by releasing the brochure Protect Journalists, Protect the Truth.

Among other things, it revealed that most journalists were killed in countries with no armed conflict. 

And while impunity for crimes against journalists continues to prevail, in 2020, 13 per cent of cases worldwide were reported as resolved in comparison to 12 per cent in 2019, and 11 per cent in 2018.

The findings also showed that in 2019, Latin America and the Caribbean region represented 40 per cent of all killings registered worldwide, followed by the Asia and Pacific region, with 26 per cent. 

“States have an obligation to protect journalists”, and judges and prosecutors must promote “swift and effective criminal proceedings” to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against them are held accountable, upheld Ms. Azoulay.

Sierra Leone Repeals Criminal Libel Law

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio has signed the amended law, effectively repealing the 55-year-old seditious libel section of the Public Order Act 1965 that criminalised free speech and stifled journalism in the West African nation.

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists: Ahmed Sahid Nasralla

 “I have always argued that the repeal will unshackle free speech, expand democratic spaces, and consolidate our democracy. It will open up the space for the growth of the media industry in the country. Professionalism will be enhanced and the best and brightest and more women, especially, will be encouraged to work their trade,” he said.

He recalled recently meeting the leadership of the Independent Media Commission, which regulates the media, and the Ministry of Information and Communications to discuss possible support to 130 registered newspapers, 165 registered radio stations, and 42 registered television stations to thrive and evolve in a country with an enviable history of pioneering journalism in West Africa.

“In its Global Expression Report 2019-2020 -The state of freedom of expression around the world, Sierra Leone has been ranked by the global organisation, Article 19, among the top five countries in Africa for facilitating and supporting freedom of expression. It is acclamation well-deserved and a moment of inspiration to aspire to do more. And that is why we are here,” he noted.

President Bio said for more than half a century, the country had a legislative and governance regime that criminalised journalism, adding that successive governments had failed to abolish the law that threatened civil liberties and had abused it over the course of half a century.

Members of the diplomatic community and stakeholders at the occasion

“But the criminal and seditious libel law was simply a bad law. The law presumed that persons arrested were guilty even before they were tried. Truth could not be a strong defence or any defence at all. With the application of the law, everybody involved in the production and dissemination of the alleged libellous publication or broadcast could be liable for summary prosecution and imprisonment.

“Enforcing criminal libel laws contravenes international democratic governance practices. It contravenes international human rights treaties, to which Sierra Leone is a signatory, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 19(3) of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. All of those international commitments condemn limitations to the right to free expression,” he said.

Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, said history was made on Tuesday 23rd July when the distinguished Members of Parliament, in an exemplary demonstration of patriotism repealed Part V of the Public Order Act that once criminalised libel and sedition, noting that the Criminal Libel Law being expunged will continue to expand Sierra Leone and the media landscape.

“Decades-long thirst for good governance and accountability and freedom by the media, and by extension, the citizens were accomplished by a quest for action by the President. I salute the parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle who jumped on the movement of the president for taking the bold step to repeal this old and obnoxious law. I, therefore, implore media owners, publishers, and practitioners to guard against the unfortunate invasion of their profession by imposters,” he noted.

A representative from civil society, Lawyer Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai, expressed excitement at the feat and hope for the future of journalism, adding that the day should be set aside and commemorated every year as a national day of press freedom.

President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, thanked the President for mustering the courage of a soldier to expunge the law that hindered the growth of journalism in the country. He added that the occasion was the end of a long journey in terms of legislative reforms but the beginning of a long journey for professional journalism democratic good governance.

The British High Commissioner, Simon Mustard, said Sierra Leone had taken a significant step forward in enhancing Human Rights with the repeal of the law and the enactment of the Independent Media Commission Act 2020. He emphasised that the day should be celebrated for media freedom and by all Sierra Leoneans.

Journalist detained for cross-checking an alleged US1.5 million fraud

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has called for the release of managing editor of Times SL Newspaper.

Sallieu Tejan Jalloh

A team of CID officers and military personnel arrested Journalist Sallieu Tejan Jalloh at Circular Road.

Sierra Leone police confirmed the detention of journalist Sallieu Tejan-Jalloh of the Times newspaper.

According to BBC correspondent Umaru Fofona, the head of CID, Chief Superintendent John Alpha said it was in connection with an SMS the journalist sent to the county’s Chief Minister Prof David Francis, enquiring about an alleged payment of $1.5 million into his private bank account by SL Mining which had its license cancelled recently by the state.

Police aren at Ecobank seeking to confirm the alleged payment, the CID boss told me. The Chief Minister could not be reached for his comment.

Sierra Leone:Meet the Next President of SLAJ

By John Baimba Sesay

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (alias De Monk) is the outgoing National Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists; Secretary General of the charity All ‘Works’ of Life development association, and President of Development and Economic Journalists Association-Sierra Leone.

Nasralla is a professional Journalist and Sierra Leone’s foremost political cartoonist. He’s publisher of the famous satirical column called Ticha Lemp Lemp, which has now been registered as a newspaper with the Independent Media Commission and will soon hit the newsstands and online.

He is married to Margaret Yeama Nasralla (nee Kromah) with whom he has three children- Andre 12, Nefertiti 7 and Mikayla 2.

Special Achievements

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla has consistently won the national cartoon and feature writing awards in Sierra Leone and has managed several newspapers, magazines and online publications. He has won a total of 11 national awards in various categories under the Independent Media Commission annual media awards.

As Secretary General of AWOL, Nasralla has served as the focal point in consistently and successfully organising the National Achievement Awards since 2005, which annually recognizes hardworking individuals and institutions that are making a difference in the lives of ordinary people and contributing towards national development. The aim is to build a new crop of role models to whom the next generation of young Sierra Leoneans can aspire to.

Nasralla is a founding member and first president of Development and Economic Journalists Association (DEJA) and is at an advanced stage of forming the Sierra Leone Cartoonists and Illustrators Association.

He continues to provide hands on mentorship to many young media colleagues and provides technical and moral support to junior journalists across the country in the practice of journalism.

During the Ebola outbreak in his country between 2014 and 2016, Nasralla served as Head of Field Reporting on Ebola: an experiment mentoring program by SLAJ which saw a senior journalist traveling with young inexperienced reporters, to regions that were declaring 42 days Ebola-free, and guiding them to report objectively. The pilot program was a huge success.

Nasralla flanked by other journalists in Freetown while he negotiates the release of four journalists detained in Pademba Prisons

Mr. Ahmed Sahid Nasralla has worked extensively with NGOs, CSOs, MDAs and UN Agencies in developing and producing IEC Materials on a wide range of awareness raising campaigns and has facilitated several workshops to develop concepts for IEC materials and cartoon depictions.


Ahmed Sahid Nasralla was born in 1975 in Fadugu, Kabala, Koinadugu District, Northern Sierra Leone where he started his primary education at the District Education Committee School (DEC). When he was in Class 3 the family relocated to Magburaka, Tonkolili District, and he continued his primary schooling at the Tonkolili District Education Committee School (TDEC) where he sat to the Selective Entrance examination in Class 7.

The family further relocated to Freetown, where he started his secondary education at the St. Edward’s Secondary School at Kingtom, Freetown. He also attended the Ahmadiyya Muslim Secondary School at Kissy Dock Yard, Freetown where he sat to his O’levels and came out with Division 1. He did his Lower Six and Upper Six Forms at the Albert Academy (UMC) at Berry Street, Freetown, before he was admitted at Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone, to study journalism.

Nasralla was among the first batch of graduates in 2005/2006 of the Mass Communication program at FBC with a BA (Hons) First Class, after securing his Certificate and Diploma (with Distinction) in the same field.

Journalism career

Ahmed Sahid Nasralla joined SLAJ in 2001 while working as a reporter at the For di People (FDP) newspaper. At FDP he rose through the ranks to become Acting Editor, and started his satirical column Ticha Lemp Lemp, before resigning while studying journalism at FBC.

After FDP, Nasralla started syndicating his Ticha Lemp Lemp column with various newspapers including Independent Observer, The Exclusive and Concord Times.

In 2007 Sierra Leone’s football icon Mohamed Kallon contracted Nasralla to set up and manage Kalleone Sports & Entertainment newspaper; the footballer’s platform to promote sports and the entertainment industry in his country.

In 2011 Nasralla was appointed as Communications Director of the newly established Africa Young Voices Media Empire (AYV) and later became Managing Director of the fast-growing media company.

In 2014, Nasralla resigned from AYV to start his own media and arts production company called De Monk Arts & Media Production.

Other key services

In 2010/2011, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla served as Public Relations Officer of the Golden Jubliee National Planning Committee charged with the responsibility of organising Sierra Leone’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

In 2016 Nasralla served as Communications Consultant for the World Bank Sierra Leone office on a short term contract.

Special Qualities

Mr. Ahmed Sahid Nasralla has a charismatic personality; humble but firm. He is a good team player, dedicated, committed and result-oriented.


Mr. Ahmed Sahid Nasralla is a political human being, with Sierra Leone being his political party and the media serving as his constituency.  He is running for the SLAJ’s Presidency to make the Association much greater, responsive and relevant to the needs and aspirations of all journalists and for the peace and development of our beloved country.

Vote Mr. Ahmed Nasralla who eventually will bridge the gap between the young and old in this beautiful profession.

Sierra Leone: SLAJ Presidential Hopeful Champions Release Of 4 Journalists Behind Bars

Sierra Leone’s highest awards winning Journalist, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla popularly known as De Monk, has today championed the release of four Sierra Leonean journalists who are currently behind bars for reportedly publishing a false defamatory and libellous articles against lawyer Pa Momo Fofana, head of Edrina Chambers.

The four journalists, Standard Times Senior Reporter Abu Bakar Kargbo and his Editor Mustapha Sesay and The Times Newspaper Publisher, Salieu Tejan Jalloh and his Editor David Johnson, were on Friday 29th June, 2019 dragged to Court on eight Counts of defamation, and knowingly publishing a false defamatory libel.
De Monk who is currently on campaign trail across the provinces jetted in Freetown over the weekend to ensure the release of those four journalists.
“Aside from my intention to become the next President of our revered association, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, I am here to ensure the release of our colleagues who spent the weekend at the Pademba Road Correctional Center,” he said, stressing that, “I am not using this to maximize my ambition or win over my voters but I see this as an innate responsibility to protect my profession and defend my colleagues at all times.”
Sardined by journalists from different media houses at the Siaka Steven Street Courts, the SLAJ Presidential Hopeful said he has suspended his campaign to mediate the release of his colleagues.
The wives of the incarcerated journalists and other family members who were in tearing commended De Monk and prayed that God grants his desires.
De Monk is a Columnist and the best Cartoonist in the country. He is one of the pioneers behind the success of the Africa Young Voices (AYV) Media Empire.
He is one of the best students produced by the Department of Mass Communication, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
Many journalists spoken to said the best person to reform SLAJ is De Monk, submitting further that he is the bridge to solidify unity and professionalism in the profession.
“If we weren’t highly democratic, we would have just endorsed his candidature for Presidency,” they affirmed.
After series of successful mediation with both lawyers (Pa Momo Fofana and Ishmael P. Mamie) the four journalists are expected to be released.

Public Order Act haunting Free Press in Sierra Leone

By Alpha B. Kamara

Cartoon created by De Monk

While the world observe Press Freedom Day on Friday journalists in Sierra Leone are still haunted by the 1965 Public Order Act which
criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious.

Despite Sierra Leone’s constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press the 1965 Public Order Act is often put to use by the Government and public officials.

“I am pleased to inform you that a Cabinet paper with full concurrence from the Attorney General is now before Cabinet for consideration. It is my honest and genuine view that Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965 should be repealed and will be repealed in the shortest possible time,” President Bio announced.

President Julius Maada Bio promised the imminent repeal of the criminal libel and sedition laws and the creation of a fund to support journalists
while interacting with journalists during his maiden media cocktail meeting on December 5, 2018 in the capital, Freetown.

Part Five of Sierra Leone’s Public Order Act criminalises any publication that is deemed defamatory or seditious and has been used as a regime to unduly target and imprison media practitioners and silence dissident views.

The government frequently interferes with the work of journalists and media outlets in an attempt to control content. In February 2015, Ibrahim Bundu, the majority leader in Parliament, warned journalists to cease discussing the auditor general’s report on the management of the country’s Ebola Fund, or risk being found in contempt of Parliament.

USAID calls for immediate, unconditional release of REUTERS journalists in Burma

Two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were detained in Myanmar on Dec. 12, 2017. At the time of their arrests, they had been working on an investigation into the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys in a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state – REUTERS


Myanmar journalists Thet Oo Maung (R), also known as Wa Lone, and Kyaw Soe Oo (L) in undated photos. Photos courtesy of Thet Oo Maung and Kyaw Soe Oo/Facebook

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator, Mark Green,  has called for the immediate, and unconditional release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

The U.S. Agency for International Development said on Tuesday that the agency “is deeply troubled by the flawed convictions of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.

“We join the international community in calling for their immediate, unconditional release. These convictions are an enormous setback for democracy and the rule of law in Burma. We urge the Government of Burma to protect journalists and press freedom, which are the bedrocks of democracy and peace.

“Actions that restrict the freedom of the press prevent Burma from reaching the full promise of democratic, citizen-responsive governance and equal opportunity and rights for all. The United States will continue to stand with journalists, civil society, and others who work to shine a light in dark places and give a voice to the voiceless.”

REUTERS report on Monday that a Myanmar judge on Monday found the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, guilty of breaching a law on state secrets and jailed them for seven years.