Demanding justice in Sierra Leone for slain journalist Ibrahim Foday

Friday, June 12, 2015
CJFE adds its voice to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) along with the undersigned members of IFEX, the global network of organisations dedicated to promoting and defending freedom of expression worldwide, in writing to you regarding the case of the murdered journalist, Ibrahim Foday. Foday was killed four years ago today on 12 June 2011 at the age of 38 while reporting for the privately owned Exclusive Newspaper near Grafton in the outskirts of Freetown. This incident took place during a violent clash over a land dispute between Grafton Town and Kossoh Town, which the journalist was covering. Prior to Ibrahim Foday's death, he published a series of critical articles about the dispute, to the apparent chagrin of the residents of Kossoh Town. Initially, the Sierra Leone Police Force arrested a police officer and Victor Haffner, a Kossoh community leader, in connection with Foday's murder. Later, both were released and Tunde Williams, Haffner's driver, was arrested on 3 November 2012 and charged with the crime. However, nearly three years after Williams was arrested and charged, no further progress has been made. We understand the case is being tried at the High Court of Sierra Leone by Justice M.A. Paul, and the matter has come up for hearing before him more than seven times without proceeding. The judiciary has yet to even select a panel of jurors to deliberate on the matter. Foday's children, Joyce Foday and Joseph Dianni Foday lamented how difficult their life has been following their father's murder. “We are seriously suffering in terms of education”, Joseph told our Sierra Leone correspondent. “Our grandmother is a retired worker and she cannot afford to take care of our education. We need help. I need justice to prevail for my late father and we are calling on the human rights and media rights groups to come to our aid.” Jestina Kumba Wainday, Foday's mother, who resides in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone, told the correspondent that travelling from Kenema to Freetown to attend court is “frustrating”. “I spend a lot of resources anytime the matter comes up for hearing yet the case does not go anywhere,” she told the correspondent. Your Excellency, when perpetrators of freedom of expression violations go unpunished, it fosters impunity and removes a major deterrent—criminal sanction—to the commission of deadly crimes. Specifically, the failure to hold murderers accountable for killing journalists has a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Due to the important role of press freedom in promoting good governance and democracy, justice must be served for Foday, and impunity for crimes against journalists must end. The undersigned organisations commend you on the improvements in the media environment in Sierra Leone since you assumed office in 2007. We are also aware of your personal interventions to promote media development and professionalism among the Sierra Leonean media. However, four years is too long to wait for justice and this delay in Foday's case has only increased the hardship faced by both victims and the accused. With this letter, we appeal to you to intervene in this matter and ensure that the stalled process moves forward to achieve justice for Ibrahim Foday's death and closure and peace of mind for his family. Media Foundation for West Africa Adil Soz - International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech Afghanistan Journalists Centre Albanian Media Institute Arabic Network for Human Rights Information ARTICLE 19 Bahrain Center for Human Rights Cambodian Center for Human Rights Cambodian Centre for Independent Media Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Center for Media Studies & Peace Building Centre for Independent Journalism – Malaysia Freedom Forum Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) Globe International Center Index on Censorship Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information International Federation of Journalists International Press Institute Maharat Foundation Media Institute of Southern Africa Media Rights Agenda Media Watch Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) PEN American Center PEN International PEN Sierra Leone Pacific Islands News Association Pakistan Press Foundation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Southeast Asian Press Alliance World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers World Press Freedom Committee
This letter of concern was sent to His Excellency Bockari Stevens, Ambassador of Sierra Leone to the United States of America. The Ambassador has concurrent accreditation to Canada and several other countries. Cc: Mr. Christopher Thornley, High Commissioner for Canada to the Republic of Ghana and Sierra Leone, and Ambassador to the Togolese Republic The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P., Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

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