By Femi Coker
The Majority Leader in Parliament for the ruling All Peopleâ€™s Congress (APC) Honorable SBB Dumbuya yesterday lambasted journalists in Parliament building, shouting at them that his party will not cooperate in the debate and eventual enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill and also stated that the FOI Bill would never become law. He also told the journalists that they had not been invited by Parliament and therefore were not welcome.
He was reacting when journalists marched yesterday World Press Freedom Day to deliver a petition for the speedy enactment of the FOI Bill into law.
Giving his statement earlier at State House the SLAJ National Secretary, Ishmael Koroma said President Ernest Bai Koroma had promised during his 2007 campaign that he will expunge section (5) of the Public Order Act of 1961. He added that section (5) of the Public Order Act of 1961 criminalizes libel. He described this law as a bad law. SLAJ Vice President, Sheik Bawoh handed over the petition letter to the Chief of Staff (COS) at State House on behalf of the SLAJ President, and urged President Koroma to pay attention and remove the bad aspect of the law which he said is not only suppressive but responsible for the slow growth of the media. Receiving the letter, the COS Mr. Kelfala Marah promised to submit the letter to the President. He congratulated journalists for the developmental strides taking place in the Sierra Leone media. May 3rd every year is World Press Freedom Day. It is used by journalists the world over to campaign against draconian media laws and demand the freedom of the press among other related issues. He further described yesterdayâ€™s Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) march to Parliament and State House as a waste of time. Speaking to the hearing of numerous journalists who accompanied the SLAJ Vice President and other executive officials to Parliament, Hon. SBB Dumbuya threw caution to the wind and without any attention to protocol, threatened that his party would withdraw its cooperation in and not pass the FOI Bill into law. He made this statement yesterday during the visit of a delegation of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) to present a petition letter to the Speaker of Parliament. Hon. S.B.B. Dumbuya who was addressing the main opposition Sierra Leones Peoples Party (SLPP) Member of Parliament, Hon Frank Kposowa in the presence of dozens of journalists at the entrance to the Speakerâ€™s office, stated further that as far as he was concerned, SLAJ was not using the right method to press for the passage of the FOI Bill. He told Hon. Frank Kposowa that the SLAJ delegation should not have been allowed into the Parliament building but that they should have been made to wait outside the Parliament for the Speaker to come out of his office to meet them for the delivery of their letter. Appearing very cross, he said if this was the method SLAJ members were using then he was not going to give them his support in pass the FOI Bill. When Hon. Frank Kposowa was quizzed as to what he made of such a statement, he replied that he had no further comments to make, but that he was going to sort it out with Hon. Dumbuya. The journalists were further surprised when another Member of Parliament, Hon. Komboh Kamara, asked them about the whereabouts of the Bill and even mocked them to go to the Minister of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and ask him for the Bill. A member of the delegation told this press that it was unfortunate that a Member of Parliament could make such a statement. â€œI see no reason why people should regard this Bill with suspicion. After all, the FOI Bill only seeks to give Sierra Leoneans the opportunity to have easy access to relevant information that will help them better understand what goes on in the ministries, departments, agencies and local councils,â€œ the journalist maintained.