The Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla has said in an exclusive interview that the apology letter from the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party to the journalists that were beaten in the wake of the Presidential run-off Election in Freetown is ‘unacceptable.’
Mr Nasralla said the association is surprised and disappointed over the language and reactions put out in the said apology letter.
It could be recalled that following this year’s World Press Freedom Day commemoration by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) at their Campbell Street headquarter on Thursday 3 May 2018, the President Kelvin Lewis called on the opposition APC party to condemn the beating of journalists by their members in Freetown. The president pointed out that his journalists were allegedly ‘whipped’ with chains by APC members simply for appearing to take photos of their ‘wrongful actions.’
After that clarion called by SLAJ on the executive of the APC, the party on Monday 14th May put out an apology letter dated 7th May that was signed by someone acting in the capacity as acting Secretary for Western Area Region, tendering their ‘unreserved apologies’ to SLAJ for the physical attacks that occurred on the Run-Off Elections Day.
The party noted that, “The APC leadership was perturbed by report of attacks on the two journalists, Patrick Jaiah Kamara of Concord Times Newspaper and Ibrahim Samura of the New Age Newspaper, by very senior members of the APC including; Ibrahim Washingai Mansaray, Dankey Koroma, Sanusi K. Bruski, Abubakarr Daramy and others.”
One of the accused persons involved in the beating of the journalists, Sanusi K. Bruski, despite being out of the country allegedly on medical treatment, in a public notice also acknowledged that, “tempers were raised and exchanges occurred.” He noted further that, “Sanusi K. Bruski wishes to unreservedly apologize to SLAJ and the journalists involved for the incidences involving himself and other members of his team.”
In an exclusive interview with the Editor of the Concord Times Newspaper, Abubakarr Sheriff, whose reporter Patrick Jaiah Kamara was beaten up, said the letter from the APC party did not in anyway condemn the act of beating the journalists by their members. He said the letter from SLAJ was simple and plain addressed to the party National Secretary General and that for an acting Secretary to a regional executive to have replied to them directly is not accepted, and is a disrespect to the journalism profession in the country.
Sheriff said, “The letter from the APC has not in any certain terms shown any sign or sense of remorse or regret, nor acceptance of the wrong because they had failed to condemn it in the first place.” He went on that, “ We were shocked to receive such a letter of apology from the APC party addressed to editors and copied to our parent body, SLAJ. Notwithstanding that, it was signed by somebody in the capacity as acting Secretary.”
The Concord Times editor said he had personally drafted a letter already addressed to the party to reiterate both SLAJ and their position as a newspaper, which seems to be missing or omitted deliberately in their letter of apology. He said he was contacted by the acting Secretary for Western Region, Wotey Dura, who promised to withdraw and send another letter to them so he said, “lets hope she does that which will address concerns raised by SLAJ in the interest of its members, then we will reconsider our next step,” he clarified.
The Secretary General for the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, said the letter was not directly addressed to the association but rather they were copied stating that despite that, they had contacted the editors of those journalists involved expressing that the letter was ‘vague’ as it did not accept any responsibility for what they did.
He said they had told APC to go and accept responsibility in writing, condemn the act and ensure public circulation of the said apology in both print and electronics media. He said the APC party representatives did accept the above terms stated but the Association was shocked to notice that the same letter that was condemned had been circulated which according to him the association ‘cannot accept’ it in no uncertain terms.
One of the journalists that was allegedly whipped with chain by members of the APC, Ibrahim Samura, said when contacted by the All People’s Congress (APC) party on the matter, he referred them to his parent body, SLAJ. He said himself and the APC party and SLAJ had met in person and had discussed on the issue but since he received the letter of apology from the party, he merely concluded that SLAJ and the party had reached conclusion not knowing his association had rejected the apology.
Samura said he was of the opinion that issues raised by SLAJ were addressed in the letter before putting it but now that he had been informed on it, he will ensure he reads over the copy of his own letter and see if recommendations from SLAJ were looked into.
By Mohamed Kabba,Twitter: @chikakabba
Wednesday May 16, 2018.