One day before presidential elections in Sierra Leone, IPI calls for journalist safety to be respected
IPI Executive Director says: "The political leanings of a newspaper or radio station should not affect the way its journalists are treated"
President Ernest Bai Koroma
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Vienna, Nov. 16, 2012
Dear President Ernest Bai Koroma,
Your Excellency, I am writing today from the International Press Institute in Vienna, Austria to respectfully request that your government ensure that journalists covering tomorrow’s election are able to do so without fear of harassment, violence or censorship.
Reading through international and Sierra Leonean media, it is clear that this election has aroused keen interest around the world and great passions within the country. As part of the process of ensuring that elections are free and fair, we call on your government to ensure that staff and security forces involved with the elections respect the presence of journalists at polling stations so that reporters can keep the public informed and bolster election transparency.
Journalists at previous elections have reportedly been beaten and harassed or had their equipment confiscated, attacks that reflect an outdated and unacceptable attitude toward the press.
I recognize that, according to reports carried in Sierra Leonean media, many media have taken political sides. While this may be frustrating for some, we emphasize that the political leanings of a newspaper or radio station should not affect the way its journalists are treated. Political party supporters and security agents must ensure that media have equal access to places and events that are connected to the election. Likewise, we have also called on the media to act responsibly in its coverage of the election and to present all sides of an issue as required by the profession’s universal code of ethics.
Sierra Leone’s reputation as a democracy is improving continually, and it is hoped and expected that the vote tomorrow will be peaceful, free and fair. We hope also that the Sierra Leone media will be able to play their part in covering the election with freedom and professionalism.
Alison Bethel McKenzie
International Press Institute