From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Apr 9, 2010, 17:26


a.   Background

The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) held its 2010 National Party Conference in Bo from Friday, February 26 to Sunday, February 28, 2010, attended by delegates and observers from constituencies, districts, regional and national executives as well as Parliament and Diaspora branches. Members of the Fourth Estate were also invited to cover the event.

During the afternoon session of the second day of the Conference, which the SLPP leadership says was a close session, ten journalists/broadcasters who had gone to cover it reported to SLAJ that they were physically assaulted and manhandled by some SLPP marshals/supporters as they attempted to record and take photographs of the proceedings. They allegedly lost their recording and communications equipment some of which were recovered and returned to them.

Both SLAJ and the SLPP have publicly condemned the act and have also agreed to set up an Investigation Panel to look into the matter. Additionally, the SLPP has accepted responsibility for the incident which it described as unfortunate and rendered unreserved apologies to SLAJ and the journalists.

This Investigation Panel is part of the mechanisms agreed by both parties for resolving the conflict and reconciling the situation but also disciplining the wrongdoers. It shall carry out its activities within the scope of these agreed terms of reference.

b. Purpose of the Investigation

The purpose of this Investigation Panel is to prove the allegation of acts of violence against the journalists, the causes and extent of these acts and suggest means for effective handling of the press by the SLPP in all future party events including conferences and meetings.

c. Specific Tasks/Objectives

Specifically the Investigation Panel shall:

confirm the allegations of acts of violence against the journalists;
determine the causes and nature of these acts of violence;
recommend disciplinary measures against the perpetrators of these acts of violence;
propose measures towards preventing such or similar situations in the future and effective means of handling the press at future SLPP organised events; and
make recommendations on any relief or other redress as they consider just in all the circumstances.

d. Composition

The Investigative Panel shall comprise five members as follow:

A Chairman who must neither be an official SLPP or SLAJ member and agreeable by both parties
Two ordinary members appointed by the SLPP National Executive; and
Two ordinary members appointed by SLAJ.

e. Duration

The investigations shall start on Monday, April 12, 2010 and be concluded on or before Wednesday, May 12, 2010.

f. Commitment of both Parties

SLAJ and the SLPP pledge to fully commit to the investigation including ensuring that accused persons as well as complainants testify before the Panel in a timely fashion.

In addition, both parties also agree to abide by and fully implement the recommendations of the Panel.

g. Logistical Support

The SLPP shall be responsible for the provision of all administrative and logistical support to the Panel during the investigation, including transport and communication expenses.

h. Reporting Line

This Committee is set up by the leadership of SLAJ and the national executive of the SLPP and should therefore report its findings and recommendations to the SLAJ President and the SLPP Chairman who shall agree on a joint action on its findings and recommendations.

i. Compensation

As a strategy to help combat impunity, SLAJ and the SLP have resolved that no journalist shall be compensated as a result of the incident despite initial pledge by the SLPP to compensate the bruised journalists.

j. Respect for Democratic Values

Both parties pledge to demonstrate high level of commitment to democratic principles and processes including press freedom, the rule of law and respect for the rights and dignity of the victims, witnesses and defendants, during the investigation.

Done in Freetown this 8th day of April 2010 on behalf of the National Executive of SLAJ and the SLPP represented by:

Mustapha M.K Sesay  
National Secretary
General, SLAJ 

Jacob Jusu Saffa
 National Secretary General, SLPP

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.