An Open Letter Calling for Justice for Slain Journalist Ibrahim Foday [press release] (allAfrica.com)

Four years of waiting for justice is four too many. IFEX members call for more rapid progress in prosecuting Ibrahim Foday’s killers.

12 June 2015

Media Foundation for West Africa

To His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma

President of the Republic of Sierra Leone

Republic of Sierra Leone State House

Dear Sir:

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, write 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.

Signed,

Media Foundation for West Africa

Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech

Afghanistan Journalists Center

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

Foundation for Press Freedom – FLIP

Freedom Forum

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, Entertainment and Arts Alliance

Media Institute of Southern Africa

Media Rights Agenda

Media Watch

Pacific Islands News Association

Pakistan Press Foundation

Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms – MADA

PEN American Center

PEN International

Reporters Without Borders

Southeast Asian Press Alliance

World Press Freedom Committee

PEN Sierra Leone