John Baimba Sesay
The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 June 2014
Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China – Victor Foh, has said that without constructive, free and independent press in a democracy, it would be difficult for the three arms of Government – executive, legislative and judiciary, to effectively and appropriately perform their constitutional mandate.
The media must be given ample space to operate freely and independently, though in a constructive and professional manner, he told journalists visiting the embassy in Beijing.
Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh was speaking yesterday, 25th June, at a welcoming meeting with a group of broadcasters from Sierra Leone.
Alpha Amadu Bah, Fatu Kamara, Ibrahim Mansaray, Hawa Tucker and Zainab Kamara – all from the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), who had gone to brief the ambassador on the outcome of a training programme in digital media technology they have successfully completed in China.
According to ambassador Foh, the government of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma has tremendous respect for Journalists and their profession.
“Without media practitioners – watchdogs of our democracy, the three arms of government may go wrong. From your constructive criticisms, society learns a whole lot and at the same time, government machinery is re-enforced.”
He applauded President Ernest Bai Koroma as a respecter of Journalists. “For the greater part of his presidency, media practitioners are enjoying working in a free country. Ambassador Foh added.
“There has been no prisoner of conscience and the country now has more media houses and the highest number of press attachés appointed by the President to our missions abroad.”
Ambassador Foh referred to a number of serving ministers in Sierra Leone who were, or are Journalists, namely; Theo Nicol – Deputy Information Minister, Paul Kamara – Minister of Sports, Sheka Tarawalie – Deputy Internal Affairs Minister; and Adviser to the President – Alhaji IB Kargbo (Photo).
“This is very encouraging and indicative of President Koroma’s love and respect for the Profession.” When President Koroma was in opposition, Ambassador Foh said he committed himself to enacting a Freedom of Information law.
“And this has been done. I believe the President is committed to reviewing other enactments such as the 1965 Public Order Act”.
Speaking further, he said he was “particularly proud that since President Koroma came into office, there has never been a prisoner of conscience. The success of a country’s democracy could be measured by many parameters and press freedom is a principal yardstick of Democracy.”
He assured the group of SLBC journalists that government would continue to encourage Journalists to work in the interest of the country and be part and parcel of the Sierra Leone’s development efforts.
Ambassador Foh also informed the group about efforts the embassy has been leading in working with a media related body in China – Star Times, who had expressed interest in working with the SLBC for its migration from analogue to digital by 2015.
He was hopeful SLBC will not let that opportunity be missed; “since we have had meetings with Star Times, we have visited their facilities and we know they have the requisite skills and capacity to do a good job in Sierra Leone.”
Responding on behalf of his colleagues, , Ibrahim Mansaray informed ambassador Foh that as journalists, they work closely with government for the good of the country, even though fair and constructive criticisms could be levied.
Mansaray said he was impressed by Government’s bold step to enact the Freedom of Information legislation in the country, and also renewed calls for a review of the 1965 Public Order Act.
“We believe as Journalists, that libel should not be criminalized. We are therefore appealing for the Libel Laws to be reviewed”, he said.
Briefing ambassador Foh on their training session, Mansaray said that within forty-five days, they were able to learn a lot and are now well equipped with knowledge of digital media technology, whilst promising to put into practice the knowledge they have acquired during the training.
He expressed gratitude to the government of Sierra Leone for establishing diplomatic and people-to-people relations over forty years ago, with the People’s Republic of China. Such a decision, he said, is today being felt through the training and support China is giving to Sierra Leone in diverse areas.
He also paid special tribute to Sierra Leone for playing a crucial role in ensuring china’s entrance into the UN as a permanent member. He expressed optimism that more Sierra Leoneans will continue to come to the People’s Republic of China for further training and capacity building opportunities.
Mansaray paid special appreciation to the entire embassy staff for the time given them throughout their stay in China and “to his Excellency Ambassador Foh for taking time out of his busy work schedule to meet us”.
The meeting was attended by staff of the embassy, including the Deputy Chief of Mission – Madam Kumba Alice Momoh and Augusta Akibo-Jones – First Secretary, and John Baimba Sesay – Press and Information Attaché.