Sierra Leone journalists warn against Internet shutdown

Summary

Sierra Leone goes to the polls on March 7, 2018 in a contest that the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma is ineligible for.

Freetown. The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has appealed to the government not to shutdown the Internet during elections period.

Sierra Leone goes to the polls on March 7, 2018 in a contest that the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma is ineligible for.

President Koroma is serving his second and final five-year term.

SLAJ fears that recent crackdown on journalists and social media users was pointing to a direction that was increasingly becoming the trend among repressive African governments. (NMG)

SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis said, as part of a statement marking the World Press Freedom Day on Wednesday, that intimidation by state officials over the past year was silencing critical voices.

“We note the growing prominence of citizen journalism, the increasing popularity of social media, and the dangers of fake news,” Mr Lewis said.

“Despite these challenges, which can and should be addressed constructively, we urge this government not to ban social media or shutdown the Internet during elections.”

This year’s World Press Freedom Day was commemorated on the theme: ‘’Celebrating critical minds for Critical times.’’

The watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, says that media freedom was in the worst state ever seen.

It says its measure of the overall level of media freedom constraints and violations worldwide had risen 14 per cent in five years.

In four years, Reporters Without Borders recorded a progressive drop of 13 places, from 72 to 85, in its Freedom of Expression Index for Sierra Leone.