Ahmd-Nasralla, President of SLAJ

My Dear Colleagues,

Let me start with a moment of silence for our colleagues who departed in 2023 for The Great Beyond, and may their souls rest in perfect peace and their memories continue to linger in our hearts.

The Year 2023 was one of huge triumphs for our Association, and by extension our profession, despite growing challenges. The good thing is we understand the challenges and we have laid a solid foundation to address them.

Being an election year, our efforts in 2023 were geared towards positioning the Association to play its rightful part in ensuring citizens’ participation through the provision of accurate and factual information and public education on the electoral processes and activities. To a great extent we were able to achieve this through our fact-checking platforms- iVerifyand the SLAJ-NDI SuperNewsRooms. On the cusp of the New Year 2024, the iVerify platform fact-checked 251 stories while the SuperNewsRoom fact-checked 54. The platforms received positive reviews and commendations from the public, as well as Elections Observer Missions and there is a general consensus on the need for their sustenance and relevance beyond elections. The current funding for the iVerify and the SuperNewsRoom expired in December 2023 but both the UNDP and the NDI have committed additional resources for a second phase in 2024 albeit on a reduced scale due to available resources. There is also some indication of support from the US Embassy in Freetown. We continue to encourage our donors to make this a priority in their support to the media. Many thanks to our co-partners BBC Media Action and Independent Radio Network (IRN) and our fact-checking teams for a fantastic job. Our commitment to truth and the pursuit of correct and factual information is unwavering.

Another big achievement in 2023 was the launch of the SLAJ Media Manifesto, thanks to the European Union for supporting this initiative through International IDEA. The manifesto contains eight (8) thematic areas as priority for the media in Sierra Leone: i) media freedom ii) safety and security iii) media sustainability and viability iv) gender equality and women’s empowerment v) professionalism and capacity building vi) access to information vii) journalists’ welfare, and viii) media literacy. The manifesto represents our collective vision and aspiration as journalists for the media we want, an empowered and inclusive media, in the coming years and decades.

In 2023, we also launched the SLAJ Gender Equality and Equity Policy for the Media in Sierra Leone to address the historical and cultural gender imbalance in the industry, thanks to our SLAJ Gender Advisory Panel and the Embassy of Ireland for their support. In our last Annual General Meeting we passed a resolution to form a Special Committee that should review the policy and develop an implementation plan and linking it with the GEWE Act 2022.

Another development worthy of note is the Anti-Corruption Commission’s review of our internal systems and processes to ensure we are transparent and accountable both to our members and to the public. We are working with the ACC to implement the recommendations before our next AGM.

During 2023, we also built partnerships and supported several good causes. We supported the passing of the GEWE Act 2022; we joined Save The Children SL to condemn the use of children in public protests; we supported the Sierra Leone Bar Association in the signing of the York Declaration for Peaceful Elections; we were part of the Committee that coordinated the signing of the Elections Peace Pledge initiated by the Commonwealth Secretariat; we supported the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion in promoting national peace and political dialogue,; we supported the Government of Sierra Leone in its bid for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council; we led the National Political Debates Committee (NPDC), with support from NDI, to organise political debates for women, youth and persons with disability in political parties; we continue to support the European Union annual beach cleaning event; we supported the Elections Commissions of Sierra Leone in public education and awareness raising on the Proportional Representation System, to name but some.

Colleagues, we always strive to support and empower our members. In 2023, before and after the elections, we organized many trainings and workshops, provided resources, and advocated for the rights and safety of journalists, including non-members of our Association. We will continue to pursue opportunities for more of such trainings and workshops to continuously build the capacity of our members and promote professional, responsible, public interest and accountability journalism. Many thanks to our donors: EU, Embassy of Ireland, UKAid, NDI and NED.

Talking about public interest journalism, we (together with our partners) have also established the National Fund for Public Interest Media (NaFPIM) and work is ongoing to operationalize the fund which seeks to promote public interest and accountability journalism in Sierra Leone. We still await the counterpart funding from the GoSL as part of its commitment during the National Media Viability and Investment Conference held in 2022 in Freetown.

Colleagues, I know it sounded as if it was all rosy for SLAJ in 2023. It was actually not. We still grapple with recurring challenges of journalists’ welfare, the soaring cost of production affecting the print media, and safety and security of journalists, especially on-line, as examples, in addition to new ones such as the Cyber Security and Crime Act 2021, and fake news and disinformation.

We have been receiving complaints from colleagues working for various media institutions about unfair treatment and harassment from their superiors. The people heading these institutions are also our colleagues. So, we have approached them through the appropriate channels to address these issues in the best interest of all, including the institutions themselves.

Just a couple of days ago former Member of Parliament Honourable Lahai Marah attacked our former President Umaru Fofana online, accusing him of conspiring with government to imprison rapper LAJ, a calculated disinformation attempt to build negative, and even life-threatening, sentiments against the revered journalist. Safety and security of journalists pose as a critical concern for us and we will continue to engage with political parties and the security sector and other stakeholders to ensure a conducive environment for our journalists to do their work. Those who attack journalists, whether verbally or physically, must be made to bear the consequences of their actions.

On the welfare side, we will continue to invest in our Golden Jubilee Journalism Welfare Fund to support our members in times of need/crisis. We have a pending meeting with the Minister of Labour and Social Security to further our discussion on a bargaining certificate for reporters. We have urged the Independent Media Commission to ensure strict compliance with statutory obligations by media owners and employers.

Nevertheless, these challenges are only strengthening our resolve to foster an environment where journalists can work with dignity, freedom and without fear of and or intimidation.

Our role as journalists has never been more critical, and we should continue to play an integral part in upholding the principles of a free media. Our relentless pursuit of truth, even in the face of adversity, should be a testament to the unwavering spirit of our profession. Journalism is a noble profession, and our commitment to the truth is what makes it so.


As we look towards the future, it is essential that we continue to adapt to the evolving landscape of journalism. Technological advancements such as AI, the global economic crisis which is affecting media advertising, constantly changing reader preferences, and the constant need for accurate, unbiased reporting require us to be agile and innovative. SLAJ is committed to providing the necessary tools and support to ensure that our members are equipped to meet these challenges head-on.

However, a lot of the responsibility lies with us journalists. The majority of media owners and employers are journalists. We cannot stick to the old ways of doing business. Advertising should no longer be regarded as the lifeblood of the media. Let us explore more means of diversifying our revenues and adopting sustainable business models for journalism.

As Journalists, we carry immense responsibility on our shoulders but we sometimes underestimate the enormous power we have to change this country by genuinely holding our Government and the Opposition accountable and promoting peace and national cohesion, and a sense of nationalism and patriotism. We should not settle for less or average.

As we struggle to have a National Secretariat we can call our own, we will continue to solicit support and resources for the completion of the SLAJ Eastern Region Office building. We encourage colleagues who made pledges to make good effort to honour them as soon as possible.

May the coming year bring new opportunities, growth, and success for SLAJ and all our members. Together, let us continue to be the guardians of our democracy, shining a light on the stories that need to be told.

Let me use this opportunity to announce our first public SLAJ National Media Awards scheduled for 2nd March 2024 at the Bintumani International Conference Foyer, in partnership with Africell, UNDP Sierra Leone, and United Bank Africa. A press release on the awards ceremony will be issued in due course.

Finally, let me recognize the contribution of the private sector in sustaining the media in Sierra Leone: Africell Mercury International, Orange SL, United Bank Africa (UBA), Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB), Rokel Commercial Bank (RCB), Leone Rock, Arise IIP, and others.

I wish us all a happy and prosperous New Year 2024!


Long live Press Freedom!

Long live SLAJ!

Long live Sierra Leone!




Ahmed Sahid Nasralla

President, SLAJ



Copyright –Published in Expo Times News on Sunday, January 7th, 2023 (ExpoTimes News – Expo Media Group (expomediasl.com)