From the Editor’s Keyboard

Strike the Iron !

5 September 2005 at 03:24 | 1951 views

The Harry Yansaneh inquest has come and gone. Three suspects had been briefly detained and charged to court. It’s now left with journalists in Sierra Leone to keep up the pressure to see that justice is done.That is the import of this article by Vanguard editor Gibril Koroma.

By Gibril Gbanabome Koroma

The recent couple of months have been eventful for the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) because they have seen, for the first time in the history of the association, a serious physical assault on and the subsequent death of one of their members, Harry Yansaneh, Deputy Editor of For Di People, one of the country’s oldest independent newspapers.

But older SLAJ members should not be shocked by this event because considering the environment in which they had been practising their profession, this kind of eventuality was bound to occur sooner or later.It is our humble opinion that SLAJ was largely to blame for this because it had a record of total disunity among its ranks complemented by a sordid alliance of some of its members with officials of successive governments both military and civilian(See Abdulai Bayraytay’s article in the MEDIA section).Which makes it and individual members extremely vulnerable to all sorts of attacks from members of the public, mainly authority figures.

The death of Harry Yansaneh, tragic as it was, had one major achievement and that was the realization by SLAJ members that each one of them is in grave danger from those who have state monopoly of violence both judicial and physical in the country’s ridiculous democracy.That if they dont come together and speak with one voice when one of them is threatened or attacked,anti-democratic forces will triumph and the association will be stamped underfoot and into oblivion.

Yansaneh’s death and and the subsequent outcry both local and international had forced the Kabbah government(which was initially waiting to see what would happen) to set up an inquest,something it seldom does when people are killed,leading to the indictment of a sitting SLPP member of parliament, her children and two others.This is an enormous achievement for SLAJ considering the climate of impunity in the country.

Most of the praise, to be honest,should go to the present president of SLAJ, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, publisher of the New Citizen newspaper and a veteran journalist himself.IB, as he is fondly known, is a serious journalist with vast experience coupled with a high sense of duty and integrity.Indeed his persona as a man of integrity was a factor in his ability to galvanise normally indifferent and cynical journalists into the national crusade against Yansaneh’s attackers, an occurrence that also drew the attention of the international community atlthough the shock of the circumstances of the deputy editor’s death was also a factor.Most of the past SLAJ presidents, despised and viewed with contempt by many members, would not have had the kind of cooperation IB received. We therefore urge SLAJ members to continue to work with IB and encourage him, together with his executive, to continue to put pressure on the Kabbah government to release incarcerated For Di People editor Paul Kamara.

The present spirit of solidarity among SLAJ members should not be allowed to wane or disappear; now is the time to strike the iron while it’s hot. Strike the iron, SLAJ.

Photo: Gibril G.Koroma