President Bio is determined to guarantee press freedom in Sierra Leone

SL Ministry of Information: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2020:

Guaranteeing press freedom, promoting and protecting the rights of journalists, giving oxygen of  publicity to the voices of reasoning, and making the country compete with other civilized democratic nations, His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, as part of his manifesto commitment, is focussing energy on expunging Part 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act which criminalizes libel from the law books of Sierra Leone.

The President fervently believes that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right that must be exercised by  everyone. He wants the voices of reasoning not to ever be subdued which is healthy for development and democracy in modern day politics.

President Bio happens to be the most vilified and literally shredded leader ever by the media in the political history of Sierra Leone. Yet, upon assuming the leadership of the country, he graciously mustered the fortitude of not only creating a media friendly atmosphere for journalists but also giving them a huge plot of land to build their headquarters in addition to subvention now provided to the umbrella body, SLAJ.

All of these are meant to make journalists practise their profession unhindered. What a show of leadership and servanthood.

Also, making it mandatory for all journalists to be paid, preventing reckless and yellow journalism, making the country habitable and marketable for massive media investment, making the Sierra Leone media competitive with the rest of the world and boosting the welfare and conditions of journalists in the country, President Bio’s administration through the Ministry of Information and Communications is profoundly committed to strengthening and amending the IMC Act and Codes of Conduct.

Working towards accomplishing this goal, the Ministry of Information and Communications has consistently and widely consulted and involved journalists in every bit of the review process. At the IMC, SLAJ has representatives who have been part of all the review efforts; not in a singular occasion have they been ever side-lined.

Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray (Photo), had this to say about the consultations: “We had consultations with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), as well as the Media Reform Coordinating Secretariat. We have SLAJ representatives at IMC who literally went through every nook and cranny of the process. but it is a work in progress; there is still an opportunity for wider and greater consultations.”

The minister has always been willing to dialogue with the public and journalists about anything they are unsettled with regarding the bill. In fact, he said that is the more reason why the bill was published. He further maintained that gazetting the bill does not mean that the bill has already been translated into law but could be a point of discussion making amends where necessary.

According to the new document, It will be mandatory for everyone or company running a newspaper to fully pay their workers at least the Sierra Leone minimum wage, pay their NASSIT contributions, and improve their conditions of service as time progresses.

This is good for journalists as it helps them plan themselves well and take care of their families. The days of journalists given ID Cards and asked to go into the world and fend for themselves which is largely responsible for reckless journalism are over.

Anyone becoming an editor for any newspaper must be a graduate. This will no doubt maintain standards in the media profession. Editors must be responsible, focused and intellectually distinguished.

It is now possible for newspapers to run as a company here. It can be a sole proprietorship and company once the conditions set by the Registrar of Companies are met.

President Bio wants to create an environment that attracts massive media investment and journalists prevented from being an incessant prey for greedy and egotistical politicians.

The President as well wants to see Sierra Leone join other countries that have expunged Seditious and Criminal Libel Laws  from their law books and guarantee unhindered responsible media freedom in line with international best practice.

Like many others in the country, the President desires to see journalism as an enviable profession in the country, where journalists can become the dignified agents of their destiny; getting regular salaries, taking care of their families, contributing to national development and getting handsome retirement benefits.

President Bio’s Administration is bent on preventing a situation where individuals or agencies can use journalists to recklessly snoop on people and smear their hard won reputation overnight.

It takes people years to build and earn their reputation which should not be recklessly blemished by misguided and faceless cowards in the name of journalism without consequences.

At the pre- legislative session in the Sierra Leone Parliament, the Information Ministry allayed the fears of the public, insisting that safeguards be instituted in protecting the reputation of members of the public against reckless journalism.

Among the safeguards, according to the Minister of Information, are the IMC Act; the Civil Libel Laws, the Codes of Conduct developed by SLAJ, etc.

Author

Strategic Communications Unit, Sierra Leone Ministry of Information and Communications.

8 Comments

  1. Wait a minute!! Does this writer actually thinks he/she is addressing a bunch of toddlers, who after being subdued and chastised for simply acting as toddlers, a gift of lollipop can usually pacify their fears? If president Bio is so much concerned about guaranteeing free media and freedom of citizens expressions, why do we have an increase in media houses censorship, arresting and torturing of journalists, with opposition members and private citizens charged to court for simply posting on social media? Does the phrase “actions speak louder than voice” discernible to this writer?

    I understand being a highly paid staff in the ministry of information with all the amenities you ever dreamt of can be intoxicating, however, it does not warrant one to perceive the suffering masses as fools. If this regime is so convinced and determined that the ‘libel law’ must be eradicated in our nation’s law, why not set examples from the onset by not even encouraging the office of the Attorney General to use the tyrannical law to stifle citizens freedom of expression?

    To date, this regime has set a record within 2 years in curtailing and stifling citizens freedom to express themselves — this includes local musical artists who are petrified to release any critical song towards the regime without being harassed or arrested. Since our nation returned to democracy, no government has been so determined to stifle citizens freedom of expression compared to this current one. By and large, citizens enjoy more freedom of expressions without fear of being arrested or censored in both past regimes of late president Kabba and Koroma, albeit the existence of the libel law. So please stop fooling yourself, Mr/Ms. Propaganda from the strategic unit of the ministry of information.

  2. Fantastic analysis there by Mr Alimamy Turay and Stargerzer. They are talking about press freedom to divert our attention from the attack on Chief Sam Sumana, the case involving Dr Sylvia Blyden etc. In the minute, they are talking about guaranteeing press freedom and in the second, they are guaranteeing gross violation of human rights on opposition politicians, supporters and journalists. Whether they guarantee press freedom now or not does not matter. They are now desperate to adjust to cover their brutal crackdown on the citizens of Sierra Leone by talking about press freedom. It’s too late I’m afraid.

    All dictators and their associates encroaching on the God given human rights of our citizens will pay the price of their deeds in the not too distant future. They will be sanctioned, their loot frozen and sent back to Sierra Leone. That is what matters and that is what is going to be guaranteed. PERIOD. God bless Mr Alimamy Turay, Stargerzer, our indomitable journalists and of course the UK that is trying to stamp out tyrants and dictators to help and protect the vulnerable and marginalized in our country. Amen and Amen.

    • Thanks Diplomatic Sahr Matturi. We cannot sit down and let these bunch of opportunists take us as suckers.

  3. Yes you can say president Maada Bio is the most vilified president of our country. Thats a sign of a mature democracy. Spare a thought for the Nigeria president, Muhammed Buhari, or former South Africa president Jacob Zuma, the way they are lampooned by their press. In the absence of a strong opposition, and to prevent dictatorial tendencies, we need a strong press. I recalled back in the eighties when Samuel K Doe, was accusing everyone that disagreed with him of plotting to overthrow his government, the then editor of PROGRESS NEWSPAPER, Foday Kandeh, published a piece Which was headlined “DOE KILLS WIFE”. Doe was so infuriated, he demanded the government of Sierra Leone to hand over the editor Foday Kandeh, a man from Kabala.

    The government refused and Doe decided to close the Liberian / Sierra leone border. If social media existed then, Doe would never have got away with what he did through his misguided tribalistic policies, that led to the Liberian civil war. At the end of the day, with advent of social media, we the citizens are not going to sit back and allow our country to be dragged down by a small group of people that think they have the God given right to make decisions for us that damages our country’s development.

    We can elect you to power, but you shouldn’t take it like a FREE PASS to damage our country’s social cohesion through tribalism and misguided policies. We all want president Bio and his government to succeed because it means our country succeed. From the time of independence to the end of the civil war, is what I call the years of plagues in our country. Nothing was achieved. Our living standard is worse than before independence. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  4. It’s quite commendable for President Bio to want to bring press freedom to Sierra Leone comparable to other democracies in the world. It demonstrates a flare of self confidence, in that a public figure that is self assured is always able to defend his/her actions with conspicuous calmness that is disarming.

    We must understand however, that Sierra Leone is not a Western nation, African. Journalists should therefore practice their craft based on our culture and way of life. The private life of People for example should be exactly that – private. If rumours start flying around that Fatima beat Maada over the head with a stick for coming home late, that should be a matter for them to resolve and not the business of journalists. It’s when Maada hardly spends any time in his office to take care of the nation’s business that journalists should concentrate on. We pay him to work for us. If he cannot perform he should let us know, and we will try to get by without him.

    It’s very perturbing to have the stipulation that all editors should be graduates. What about people who even though do not have a university degree can nonetheless outperform a graduate because they have an innate ability with words backed by years of experience? This is a serious flaw in our thinking that a graduate always has what it takes to competently do a job. Our government is full of PhD holders but we are still struggling to find our bearings. Foreigners have to tell us all the time how we should run our nation. What an insult.

  5. Real desperation indeed! This is just the start of a wave of Public Relations (PR) exercises engineered to rectify the profound list and cracks that are evidently befalling the Bio-SLPP household. They know they have not got much ground to stand on any longer; and the TSUNAMI that is going to sweep their fragile legs away is just on the horizon – and time is not on their side. This is what happens when you build a thatched house from deceitful promises and blatant falsehood. Sooer rather than later, the creditors will be knocking on the door, and your muddy house will gradually disintegrate into dust and evaporate to atmosphere.

    The ‘new direction’ SLPP promised to put on course a near dwindling economy that was on the verge of a slump, within 6-months of taking office. Now, that economy is in the dregs of the bottom side of the business cycle: exchange rates, inflation, interest rates, unemployment and growth are all dipping downwards to form an encrusted compound that even the likes of one of the greatest mathematicians and economists, John Bernard Keynes, would find impossible to dislodge. There is no Public Sector Borrowing Requirement (PSBR) in the SLPP’s vocabulary; and within 2-years, debt is accelerating at a rate that will surpass Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in their first mandated term of 5-years. On the micro front, instead of diversifying the economy as promised, they are closing down mining companies on the pretext of securing pittance in royalties.

    Among other multitude of fake promises is “to see Sierra Leone join other countries that have expunged Seditious and Criminal Libel Laws from their law books and guarantee unhindered responsible media in line with international best practice”. However, they have been dragging their feet on this poignant issue, and on the contrary, they have clamped down on all civil liberties and human rights in the country. Today, many Opposition APC party members including: former Defence Minister, Rtd Mayor Paolo Conteh; and former Mayor of Freetown, George Herbert Williams, are all languishing in jail. One of the APC presidential aspirants, Dr Sylvia Blyden is in the wilderness in trying to exonerate herself from a freak and trumped up seditious libel indictment against the insecure and clueless President. The storm is definitely brewing and the scandalous Bio-SLPP clique are aware of the impending calamity.

  6. A turtle that had been locked tightly inside its aging stony shell for a decade once decided it was time to stick its neck out and take a quick unintrusive peek;so one day it came out of its shell,looked and called out to see if anyone was around,but to his greatest surprise he was shocked to find out was he alone on a vast scorching desert,lost with no friends and neighbors anywhere in sight.Totally flabbergasted and astonished he said to himself in sadness,”last time i came out i was surrounded by green pastures,blue skies and flowing rivers,of that i am quite sure,now how the hell did i get lost and stranded on miles of sand dunes in an arid desert?”

    As he sat there in tears the passing gentle whistling wind said to him;”Have you forgotten so quickly the many fights you had with your neighbors for being loud truthful and outspoken?How you withdrew inside your shell and would not speak or utter a word to anyone for many years?Well it was while you were fast asleep inside your warm cozy shell that an Eagle scooped you up,and carried you away into the desert where there were no noises,protests,annoying sounds and dissenting voices.Are you not happy?This is what you wanted wasn’t it?” And the solemn turtle,fell so ashamed that it couldn’t help to break down in tears.

    Folks,the same thing applies to this President,since he came to power he has gone the whole nine yards,and more using autocratic oppressive measures and strategies to silence opposing and critical voices in our beloved country – Dr Blyden is just one of them.Some of his ministers are on record for threatening the lives of fellow citizens who do not share or subscribe to their regressive outdated ideas and beliefs,and now here they come,dubious turtles out of their shells proclaiming that their criminal Cabal is determined to guarantee Press freedom in Sierra Leone?These Con-artist had me rolling hysterically on the floor with laughter;Bwahahahahaha…Mentes Criminales,go tell that to the birds!

  7. The Freedom of Information Act is long overdue to be enacted in our statutes. President Bio must Treat this matter with utmost urgency and ensure the process is completed.

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