Kudos to SLAJ

4 September 2005 at 01:11 | 1021 views

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has been tormented over the years by a multitude of problems from bad leadership to corruption, cronyism,unprofessionalism and all the other negative isms you can think of.But under the recent leadership of Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, things seem to be getting better for this pitiful organization.In this intellectual journey, Abdulai Bayraytay, himself a SLAJ member in exile, turns the searchlight on his beloved association with nostalgic praise and a bit of impatience and anger.

By Abdulai Bayraytay

The recent inquest into the untimely death of Harry Yansaneh and the subsequent arrest and detention of the "Honourable" Fatmata Komeh of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) should be lauded thumbs up. This is against the backdrop of the fact that one of the perennial problems confronting our judicial system, if not all of our public system, is the blatant corruption of those entities that over the years disparagingly succeeded in breeding discontent in our fragile democratic set up. Undoubtedly, therefore, the “miscarriage” and perversion of justice has always been to the advantage of corrupt business enterprises and their political cronies. As a matter of fact, the justice system was a caricature of its former self vividly reminding us of the postulates of A.V. Dicey and his high sounding theory of the rule of law which, among other things, stated that “justice delayed is justice denied.” In this Inquest, however, justice has been served. A rare scenario in current president Kabbah’s Sierra Leone.

The insinuation on the part of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice that justice was not served because some the names of those indicted were not read by the jurors could only be seen as a last minute attempt by a confused person who wanted to revert to the old tactics of judicial patronage and manipulation. That is why Sierra Leone may need more Adrian Fischers coupled with the caliber of those no-nonsense jurors who may have stood against the tides of pressure the politicians may have exerted on them to rule otherwise. If one may ask, should this ruling not be an impetus for other judges, prosecutors, magistrates to dispense justice with fairness, taking into consideration the huge chunk of culprits languishing in Pademba road prisons and other gulag-like jails up country?.

It is against this background that one would shower the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the Reporters’ Union in particular and defenders of press freedom the world over for the pressure piled on the Kabbah government to institute an inquest into Harry’s death. Understandably, even if the government had wanted to drag its feet on this, the political atmosphere defied this thinking with most politicians nowadays vigorously speaking out in favour of press freedom and the rule of law.

However, one should not lavish too many kudos on SLAJ since the challenges ahead for a vibrant, thriving press are still enormous.Indeed, one of their members, Paul Kamara, is languishing in jail as we write these words.His crime?— expressing an opinion on the findings of a past commission of enquiry that found the present leader of the country wanting in the area of morality.SLAJ has to keep up the momentum that Harry’s death has triggered and use it to secure the release of their colleague who has been unjustly incarcerated by the kleptocratic political class in Freetown by way of an outdated, archaic and barbaric British legal idiocy.

On the other hand,SLAJ has to do something about the infamous practice of “attack and collect” which some journalists in the country still refuse to abandon.The association has to closely watch the moral state of its members.That will help to gain respect from the rest of society. Something or somebody should be watching the watchers.