Sierra Leone News: HRCSL Empowers Journalists

By Stephen V. Lansana & Mariama Sesay

Chairman of HRCSL, Rev. Dr Usman Jesse Fornah

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on October 21, engaged journalists on issues relating to elections reporting, hate speech and equal access to the media by all political parties.

The engagement was held at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) headquarters in Freetown with the theme: “Matching forward to a politically tolerant and peaceful 2018 elections.”

The Commission held the media engagement on the African Human Rights day. This year’s celebration is key as the country will be holding general election in 2018.

The Chairman of HRCSL, Rev. Dr Usman Jesse Fornah, said that both the national and international treaties and laws prohibit the use of hate speech. “A number of human rights treaties including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights not only permit states to prohibit hate speech, but actually require them to do so.”

He said the constitution and the international treaties guarantee us of our freedom of expression. “It is the responsibility of the state to gives us our freedom of expression but the state can also limit us for the security of the state and the respect of others,” he said.

He said hate speech is the use of unpopular ideas and statements which shock, disturb and offend individuals in the society. “Friends, don’t demean anybody for your benefits.”

Chairman Fornah said that the commission is going to monitor the media on the type of publications and broadcasts it is putting out for public consumption on a daily basis and bring to book any media that make hate speech.

In her statement, the Public Relations Officer of SLAJ, Princess Gibson applauded the Commission for empowering the media ahead of the 2018 elections. She said that the topic “hate speech and access to the media” is very important as journalists will be engaging the politicians. She made reference to negative effect of hate speech as it was evidenced in Rwanda. “We all know how hate speech contributed to the genocide in Rwanda, which led to the death of 100s of people,” she said, calling on journalists to deviate from using hate speech.

SLAJ PRO called on the Commission to inform the gatekeepers about their role in ensuring that they do not publish or broadcast any hate speech in their media. “Gatekeepers should not only look the grammatical aspect of the news items that reporters bring to them, but they should also look for hate speeches,” she said.

Journalists at the session