23rd July 2018
SLAJ President Kelvin Drags Sierra Leone Journalism to the Gutter!
By Aruna Turay (09/09/17)
The President of the Sierra Leone Journalists is a dictator! He deletes any opposing views posted by members on SLAJ Whatapps!!
Talks that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is serious in advocating the Freedom of Information Act in Sierra Leone, is laughable! Many members have angrily viewed the current position of SLAJ as ‘a toothless bull dog’ phenomenon. This has been widely described as the ‘petty and unfortunate North Korean style’ leadership of SLAJ President and dictator Mr. Kelvin Lewis, left).
The Kelvin Lewis presidency of SLAJ has so far not being seen as democratic as it used to be during the Presidency of Umaru Fofana.
Many are disappointed that even at a time when Kelvin Lewis is completing his life time as President of SLAJ, he is yet to interview and accept a single member into the Association, unlike his predecessors, Umaru Fofana, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and others who enrolled dozens of qualified and competent new journalists into the membership of the Association.
Even after failing to grow the Association from where Umaru Fofana left and after also failing to unite the membership he inherited from his former bosses, Kelvin has resulted to disuniting and causing grievances among members of the Association.
Working on recommendations by members to establish a social media forum that will accommodate all registered SLAJ members, the SLAJ Whatsapp Forum was formed some few years back and was allowed to be administrated by Kelvin Lewis and few other ‘voiceless and powerless’ members.
The aim of this forum was basically to create a platform where SLAJ members will be analyzing and discussing national issues and those of the Association on a daily basis using a journalistic perspective.
Unfortunately, Kelvin has transformed the forum as what many described as "fambul property", wherein only those who favoured his leadership style and those who praise sing him are allowed the free will to post and comment on others' posts without being deleted.
Once you start highlighting the dozens of failures in the Kelvin presidency, you are automatically going RED in his bad book and you definitely stand the risk of being deleted from the SLAJ forum unjustifiably.
Evidently, distinguished and well respected SLAJ members like former President Umaru Fofana, Alhaji Sheik Alie Kallay, Abdul Fonti Kabia, Minister Sylvia Blyden, Isaac Massaquoi, Commissioner Dauda Musa Bangura, Thomas Dixon and Aruna Turay amongst others are no longer members of the forum largely due to Kelvin Lewis' autocratic kind of leadership.
Most of these icons in the media landscape were unjustifiably deleted by Kelvin simply because they posted or commented on issues he (Kelvin) saw negative on his leadership or ate not in his favour.
Dozens more of the forum's members have decided not to be commenting on issues on the forum for fear the risk of being humiliated or deleted by Kelvin from the forum. Some people now have resolved to just be reading and not commenting on issues posted on the forum.
There has not been a single positive comment from any member of the forum on the bad leadership and management of Kelvin Lewis presidency in SLAJ.
Senior journalists and editor, Thomas Dixon posted in another forum saying: "Na now u know? I have been begging to be part of the SLAJ group but Lewis sees me as an enemy! When you have a North Korean like SLAJ President you should expect this."
Another senior journalist and managing editor, Abdul Fonti Kabia said: "Kelvin Lewis is simply and unfortunately CHILDISH. But all of these concerns would be raised at the AGM and we will ensure they are adequately addressed.
I can't imagine Kelvin removing me from the group for calling him ‘Uncle Mr. Kelvin Lewis’ which he described as provocation. I don't know which provision in the SLAJ Constitution that makes it a crime to refer to the President as ‘Uncle Mr.’ We will continue to stand up and speak up and fight for our rights even if we are branded as hoodlums. My human rights are sacrosanct."
Another veteran journalist, editor and social commentator, Abdul Hassan Fakie posted: "SLAJ needs opposition groups or individuals. We need to be critical of the way the SLAJ is being run and not just sit down and let some clowns tell us what they want to tell us year in year out."
Current Managing Editor of Daily Mail newspaper, Gunther Darrame buttressed saying: "Yes. It is a media group. Dissenting views should be respected."
In conclusion, Fonti said: "Radical opposition, in fact. So since dissenting voice is not allowed internally, we have resolved to take this public. Our voices will never be suppressed."
With all the above negative sentiments coupled with President Kelvin's decision to cause a leading newspaper to be fined by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) over some alleged petty issue, there have been public concerns and questions as to whether SLAJ is truly seriousness to get the government to ensure Freedom of Information, especially when the Kelvin Lewis leadership has failed to uphold the principles of professionalism and FOI within SLAJ.
I can't wait for the next SLAJ elections.