Clerk apologises to victim as Parliament begins investigation into MP’s assault on journalist

The Media Foundation for West Africa welcomes the intervention of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), which has led to the Clerk of Parliament issuing an apology to Abdulai Gbla, a journalist who was assaulted by a Member of Parliament.

A statement dated July 6 and signed by SLAJ’s National Secretary General, Alhaji Manika Kamara, announced the development, adding that the leadership of Parliament have recommended an investigation into the assault.

On June 28, 2022, a Member of Parliament, Hon. Abdul Muniru Lansana, attacked Abdulai Gbla, the Chief Executive Officer of Gbla & Co Multimedia, operators of Gbla TV online, and a member of the Sierra Leone Parliamentary Press Gallery. The incident occurred inside the National Assembly. The journalist was filming a scuffle between some MPs from the majority and minority sides of the House after official parliamentary proceedings had closed when Abdul Muniru Lansana ordered him to stop. When Gbla ignored the order, the MP, representing Constituency 121 in the Western Area, pushed and shoved him, almost sending him to the floor. Not satisfied, the angry lawmaker knocked the journalist’s gadget (Samsung Galaxy Note 20 ULTRA) onto the floor. Fortunately, the gadget was not damaged and the journalist was rescued and escorted out by other MPs present.

In a complaint letter to SLAJ on the same day, Gbla said Hon. Muniru Lansana has held a grudge against him for a year now after he did a story about the MP’s clash with commercial motor bicycle riders over a piece of land which the latter were using as their terminal.

Following the complaint, the executive of SLAJ led by President Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, on Tuesday, July 5, 2022, held a meeting with the Clerk of Parliament, Hon Umarr Paran Tarawally, in his office at the premises of Parliament in a bid to amicably resolve the case. At the beginning of the meeting, the Clerk, on behalf of the MP, apologised to the journalist for what he described as “the unfortunate incident.”

The SLAJ statement said “Parliament will constitute a committee to investigate the incident and make recommendations. The committee shall include journalist Abdulai Gbla and a representative from the SLAJ Executive. The committee shall conclude their investigation by Friday 15th July 2022 and would decide on the next steps.”

“I appreciate the fact that SLAJ took the matter up seriously with Parliament, and Parliament has considered making an apology. I think that in itself is good. I appreciate the fact that Parliament has reached out to me. The fact that Parliament wants to mount an investigation is also good because we need to explain ourselves: what happened, what led the MP to do that to me. Maybe he needs to explain. And after everything, I want to see the recommendations,” Gbla told the MFWA via a messaging app.

The MFWA salutes the move by the SLAJ to get the matter resolved and consider as progressive the apology rendered by the Clerk of Parliament over the incident. We also welcome the decision to investigate the incident and urge SLAJ and the authorities to pursue matter to its logical conclusion.

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