Tribute to journalism as we celebrate world press freedom day

Lahai Lawrence Leema

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 May 2016  

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As we commemorate international press freedom day 2016, the relevance of the press in governance cannot be overemphasized.

A viable and potent press in any country triggers transparent and accountable governance. The press helps government to be able to see the areas it has done well and areas it has to do better.

However, often times the work of the press has been misunderstood by many governments especially the despotic ones.

In Sierra Leone for instance, press freedom has been punctuated by the Public Order Act No. 46 of 1965. That notwithstanding, some journalists have still risked their survival in order to maintain service delivery through professional journalism.

In the process, many have suffered arbitrary arrest and incarceration. But that has still not intimidated their practice of the profession.

Many, out of fear have skewed their professional service delivery to suit the comfort of the government of the day, instead of helping the government to see areas to work on for the betterment of the people’s livelihood.

freedom-of-the-pressLet me at this juncture entreat all journalists to do a professional job amidst obstacles like the Public Order Act of 1965, as I am not sure any government will easily abolish such road block to the profession.

It is worth noting that every job has its own challenges. The way one is able to navigate around the challenges and accomplish their goals, makes them real professionals.

Sometimes, the venture of professional journalism is misconstrued by despots. But I say to you, keep your head up and serve humanity with good conscience, for posterity will certainly count your service right.

Let me use this moment to remember those journalists who had passed on to eternity in the process of serving humanity,  especially the Late Captain J. B. Morray who died in a road accident while engaged in the course of his professional work. The late Major Tamba Kanu also died in active service of professional journalism.

Both late officers served in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF). We also remember the late Prince Brima and the two Fofanas – Lanasna and the other who were BBC reporters.

May light eternal grant onto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them; may their souls and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in Peace, Amen.

David Tam BayohTo those surviving, especially those ones who have been caught up in unfortunate circumstances in the course of their profession, names like Paul Kamara and Dr. David Tam Bayor (Photo), I say to you, don’t despair in the face of unfortunate circumstances.

Your names have been written in the history books. Your works are extremely valued by the silent majority.

To the rest of the journalists, I respectfully entreat you all to continue the good work in serving humanity. Be courageous and professional in the execution of your jobs.

Always put God first and serve your conscience right. On behalf of the SLPP, I wish you all a happy World Press Freedom Day.

About the author

Lt. (Rtd) Lahai  Lawrence Leema is the Acting National PRO of the Sierra Leone’s main opposition SLPP.

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