Published on August 15, 2010 by Cocorioko News · 3 Comments
I receive regular supplies of Sierra Leone newspapers. Whenever my bundle of newspapers arrive from Freetown, I have a great moment during my leisure hours weekends reading these papers, though I must confess that not all of them have anything of substance in them . Though a good many of them are excellently produced with critical, educative and informative articles, What I see in some of the papers is the typical Sierra Leonean negativity and trash talking that sadly pass for journalism in a country that was once the centre of journalism excellence and the Fleet Street of West Africa. Why Sierra Leone journalism in general continues to lag behind her West African neighbours is beyond understanding when we have a reputable college of journalism now at Fourah Bay College. The college has provided many fine journalists. Inspite of this, some Sierra Leone newspapers remain weapons of mass distortion, mass deceit and mass deception.
Under this climate of deceitful and deceptive journalism practice, the government of President Ernest Koroma deserves praise for allowing the spirit of press freedom and democracy to thrive in the country. Let us give credit where credit is due. Only in today’s Sierra Leone can journalists dare to pen down the kinds of articles we read daily in the country’s newspapers. In years gone by, many of our journalists would have been behind bars for the kinds of articles they write or allow to appear in their newspapers. And for this, we must give credit to the government. President Koroma and the government have just decided to let journalists go about their business without any hinderance. And this is good for Sierra Leone.
The present dispensation in Sierra Leone can only be compared to the era of the country’s second post-Indepence Leader, British-trained lawyer, Sir Albert Margai , when the press was so free in Sierra Leone that the country acquired her hard-earned reputation of being the citadel of press freedom in West Africa. Sir Albert Margai committed many errors but that aspect of his leadership will always remain fresh in the minds of grateful Sierra Leoneans. President Koroma is about to best Sir Albert.
In Sierra Leone today, there is great diversity in content between different newspapers. While some are pro-government and waste no time to promote the achievements of the government, a good many are pro-opposition and they publish scathing articles against the President, his ministers and public officials. Because the government has kept its hands off the manner journalism is practiced in Sierra Leone, some of the pro-opposition newspapers go overboard and engage in outright incitement of the people. While the diversity in content is enriching the market place of ideas, we must never forget that we are dealing with a gullible public in a post-war country that is still fragile and not yet totally free from being plunged back into full-scale chaos by irresponsible and reckless journalism . President Koroma and his ministers are fully aware of the potential of errant journalists plunging the country back into war. However, they have remained resolute in their determination that press freedom and democratic journalism will continue to prevail in Sierra Leone. We should give the President credit for that. I keep posing this question : When has anybody ever heard President Koroma condemning journalists in Sierra Leone for the things they write ? In all his speeches and extemporaneous statements, President Koroma has never complained against journalists. The President knows that he is doing his job and he does not care what anti-government journalists write or say about him. He knows that the truth will prevail.
For the first time ever since the Albert Margai era, journalists in Sierra Leone find themselves under no threat whatsoever for what they write. Since President Koroma came to power in 2007, no journalist has been arrested by the government. No newspaper office has been subjected to illegal searches and seizures. No journalist has been incarcerated. The walls of Pademba Road Prisons and Mafanta reflect not a single shadow of a journalist or civil society activist. I think the International community, who have men on the ground in Sierra Leone, are right when they commend President Koroma for being democratic and for building a free society without repression to any citizen.
Since the International Community knows what is going on in Sierra Leone and have often expressed it in their reviews of the peace and governance situation in Sierra Leone, I think the government should just concentrate on its valiant work to improve the welfare of the people and not allow itself to be distracted.
Nobody in his right mind can subscribe to the view that President Koroma is a dictator. As carefully enumerated above, the President has done nothing to prove that he is becoming a dictator . On the contrary, the facts on the ground prove that in fact, President Koroma is the most democratic President we have had since Sir Albert Margai. Journalism is enjoying one of its finest moments. It is the truth that lasts. Any tongue that rises against the President unjustly will be proved to be false in the long run.
President Koroma is doing a marvellous job. Within the short time he has been in power, he has brought back electricity and constructed modern highways. Safe pipe-borne water is about to return .Mining has restarted in earnest and thousands of jobs will soon be available to the people , especially the youth. The government has set up a Youth Commission to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. President Koroma’s outstanding leadership in Sierra Leone has kept international donor partners steadfastly behind him and his government. The government must therefore avoid being sidetracked by its enemies .
Sierra Leoneans know that their country still has serious socio-economic and political problems but they know also that their President is not a dictator. Rather, they know that they have a President who is not only working hard to solve their problems but has allowed freedom and democracy to prevail throughout the four corners of the country .
2012 will be the final arbiter when President Koroma will be rewarded with a second term for his exemplary leadership by the grateful people of Sierra Leone .
For now, that is what matters.