By Tony Bee, Sydney, Australia
New year to me, it is a time to look back at both what we have done throughout the twelve (12) months and also the renewing of resolutions or covenants with God. That is for those who believe that there is a supernatural being that takes care of every individual human being on earth. Although to those who depend on their satanic knowledge that always fail them, when a believer asks his or her God for His divine intervention, especially in a difficult time, they considered that individual or government as weakness. That is why such people are always on one another’s throats in fighting for supremacy or in superiority conflict.
But if only if human intelligent is something to rely on than God, the Malaysia MH-370 missing plane would have been found by now. But God, Almighty to show His supreme power to human beings on earth, upon all the supper power nations, including America, Australia, China etc,of this world tried all scientific theories that would have given them just a clue or a tip as to where the missing plane wreckage could be found, but no way. On to this present time of writing this piece no human scientist had ever told the world where the missing plane wreckage is. But I do believe that it is only God that knows where it is because He is above human knowledge and understanding.
However, I will like to reflect my mind on few issues, including whether social media should be regulated or not and the role of civil societies or human rights organisations in the country whether they have being doing their jobs very well or not. Those issues were been discussed in 2016. Therefore, as a member of both professions, I was following such issues with keen interest, especially as a peace and development oriented Sierra Leonean that always wants to see Sierra Leone move forward.
Nonetheless one may be tempted to ask why out of hundreds of topics or issues, particularly government issues, including corruption that been discussed in the country unless these two topics. To me the answer is simple, it is because I do believe that the two are some of the main pillars of our democracy. For the fact that people believe the saying or writing of media men and women, especially those in the private sectors more than any other source of information. Likewise civil societies, the nation listen to the protectors and promoters of their rights in any country of the world, including Sierra Leone. Therefore, they always rely on them for their source of information than any other organisations.
Such issues also became more important to me because of the parliamentary and presidential elections that are just in the corner waiting for a shout. Which is a cross road period that we expect both patriotic and nationalistic Sierra Leonean media and civil societies men and women should put the country’s INTEREST FIRST above political party, tribe or regional interest for the sake of peace and stability of our suffering nation.
By being very conscious of what they will say, what they will write and what they will send to the social media and how they will make their comments on radios and TVs stations, and also how they should protect and promote their fellow Sierra Leoneans’ interests without endangering our hard earned golden peace in the country because it is very precious to us. “SALEONE FIRST”.
The reason being that even if the media and civil society organisations are feeding the general public with the wrong type of information, they will find it difficult to know particularly in a country like Sierra Leone. Where illiteracy is like the gone Ebola sickness that destroyed many valuable lives in the country. Many Sierra Leoneans are unable to distinguish between genuine information and deceitful information because of illiteracy. Therefore, only very few members of the public will be able to know that the media and the civil societies are not doing their sacred duties in accordance with their Code of Ethics in the country, especially in terms of objectivity.
In view of that some members of the media and civil society activities are quick to take advantage of the illiteracy of the majority of the masses, especially because of political party affiliation, tribal and regional sentiments. Therefore, they are also very quick to forget that the life span of the country’s democracy in many cases, is always in the hands of the media and civil societies men and women. The fact is that sometimes they can easily make or break. In view of that feeding the general public wrong information, particularly because of political party interest, tribal and regional sentiments by these two bodies at the expense of innocent people is very dangerous for the peace, unity and stability of our nation.
Therefore, looking back at the media issues in the country, especially whether the social media should be regulated by a special independent body in the county or not. As I said, I have listened to many commentators of the issues, including those on TVs and radios’ stations and I also read many articles or commentaries on social media, especially whatsapp and face book.
I really do appreciate with the writings and commentaries that some of my compatriots made, especially on how some members of the noble profession are taking it to the dustbin by writing all sorts of fake news, particularly in the social media. They normally send all sorts of fake photos and family misfortune issues in the internet for public consumption. Which is very unprofessional and it is also too unpatriotic attitude and behaviour.
Many times they are doing that with the aim of pulling down (Phd) their very decent and hard working fellow Sierra Leoneans. Just because of political interest, individual hatred, jealousy, bad hart and personal grudges. They did such immoral and un-nationalistic behaviour to their fellow peaceful, cool and calm Sierra Leoneans, including our decent patriotic and hard working Vice President Foh in the social media about a year ago to tarnish is hard earned repetition.
There is another alleged court case of social media information dissemination in the country. particularly in connection with a government fuel price increase. A university student of Sierra Leone was charged to court for allegedly circulating inciting news and information in the internet (Social Media) in the country that would have caused a complete public disorder. By allegedly calling for a national total public disobedience that would have had put the country into another civil unrest that would have involved the lose of many innocent poor Sierra Leoneans’ lives and property.
And recently they also did similar unethical behaviour to the eloquent, cool, calm and calculated President Ernest Bai Koroma spokesman, Abdulai Bayrayaty. Wickedly nude him alleging that he was chatting with an under 17 years old child. All is about trying to destroy the young handsome dynamic hard working and gentle good looking man’s image. All in the name of hatred, bad hart and jealousy. But I think he suppose to know some of his enemies because he was recently being attacked physical by one of the SLPP thugs in the public.
Can you imagine how ungodly some Sierra Leoneans are? The unpatriotic and un-nationalistic Sierra Leoneans, especially enemies of peace and development hate to see or hear about their hard working compatriots in and out of the country. Therefore, they will go all out in trying to destroy the good reputation of such good Sierra Leoneans by writing all sorts of concocted stories against them at the expense of the struggling nation.
Writing or disseminating unsubstantiated evidence or news and information that will cause public unrest because of political hatred, political affiliation, tribal and regional sentiments at the expense of the nation’s peace and stability is completely unacceptable. The fact is in a school of journalism or mass communication, particularly in media law, certain main areas of news and information dissemination are always taught, particularly the areas of confidentiality and privacy issues.
There are certain information that a journalist should not publish or made public because of public interest, especially news or information that will cause public disorder and also individual or family privacy. Individual or family private information should not be published without the individual or family’s consent, be it love affairs or a family member gruesome death photos etc. unless by law.
Nonetheless I am totally against individuals or government harassment of the media or individual member of the media, especially for personal vendetta. However, I am also against those who writes or disseminate fake news and information, particularly against the peace, stability and the development of the country.
And also in view of social media regulation, if an editor or publisher of a newspaper is responsible for any fake story or news that may be published in his or her newspaper, I see no reason why a team leader of a social media group should not be accountable for disseminating false information in his or her group. The fact is he or she has the power or right to regulate is group by making rules that members of the group should follow. The common logic is if he or she has the right to open a forum or group freely, he or she also has the right to control members of his or her group as he likes.
Therefore, if some members of the highly respected noble profession are guilty of some of the charges above, including the spreading of false information and publishing individual or family private information, especially gruesome accident photos and nudes without his or her consent, I see no reason why social media should not be regulated to save the good name of the profession and the country from another unnecessary war.
Even in advance countries like Australia there are bodies that responsible for media regulations both print and electronic. As such it is an open secret that 24/7 the Australian government is monitoring both print and electronic media, especially social media for many reasons, including terrorists issues, child abuse, human trafficking to protect the country from falling in the hands of criminals.
It is an indication that there are limitations for any thing we do on earth, even the food we eat and some of the things we say have some limitations. You cannot just shout fire or snake in the public, especially in a place like stadium when a game is playing or law court when the court is on. When there is no fire or snake. If you do you will surely have to face the consequences of the law for creating panic or trauma in the midst of the public.
In view of that talking about freedom of the media and freed of speech or civil society activities, we should always take our time because they are very critical issues that need thorough critical analysis, particularity how we interpret them because we are not perfect human beings. As such, if only if we are honest to ourselves as human beings, there is nothing that is totally FREE in this universe. Therefore, there is nothing like free lunch in the world. Directly or indirectly there must be some strings attachments to them.
Therefore, despite I am a member of the profession but that does not means that when things are red, I should say they are green vice versa. Therefore, one thing that I would also like my colleagues to know is that the Sierra Leone Journalist Association (SLJA) is not there to waste time and money on protecting unprofessional journalists or journalists who take the profession as a personal blanket to destroy others without any good reason and the country under the name of journalism and human rights.
Therefore, professional journalism in the country is no longer a matter of you are an APC or SLPP journalist. But it is a matter of objectivities and putting the country’s interest first. If Donald Trump says “America First”, why not Sierra Leoneans say Sierra Leone First?