Politicians still underestimating the power of the media in Sierra Leone

By Kabs Kanu

The book above , The Media in American Politics , by David L. Paletz, doesl not only tell you that the media are the fourth most important vehicle in the governance structure after the Executive , the Legislature and the Judiciary but have the potential to topple the other three if they really want. Presidents, Parliamentarians, lawyers and judges are no match for the media if we decide to bring them down. The media are more powerful than the executive , legislature and the judiciary.

The most powerful man in the world is tottering at the brink right now because of the media. He is not jittery in front of an enemy army. He is not jittery in front of the legislature and the judiciary. .But whenever he faces the media, he is in jitters. He fears no man, but he fears the media.

The American socioeconomic and political system depend on the media because therein lie their successes or failures. The American system feeds on the media because it knows that the media it is that can make or unmake them.

We the media affect public opinion tremendously. What we say repeatedly becomes the norm . If we say one thing over and over and over, people eventually believe. We set the agenda for national development and changes in the system. We determine which issues are treated as important or unimportant. We frame things and shape the world the way we want it.

We interpret what happens in the country and we give meanings to events. No event will be deemed important if we do not cover it and ascribe meanings to it. That is how important and indispensable we are.

We stimulate the public to participate in politics. People say the illiteracy rate in Sierra Leone is high and many people do not read newspapers. However, there were over 50 newspapers at the peak of the President Ernest Koroma reign and most of them got sold out daily. If people do not read newspapers, who buys them ? The fact is that the people who read newspapers in the third world influence what happens in the country and they often spread what they read by word of mouth. Even the illiterate Sierra Leonean is very intelligent . They do not “Know Book “ but they listen to those who read newspapers and propagate their contents. But most certainly, a huge percentage of Sierra Leoneans listen to the radio and watch TV today.

Sierra Leoneans also underrate the social media. They say many people do not have phones and credit to come online, but have these people conducted scientific studies to prove that ? We who do a lot of journalism on the social media know that it is a potent force in Sierra Leone. One of my Cocorioko forums has 36, 000 people. The other has 34, 000. Given our small population, that is a big number , especially when there is a tendency for them to spread what they read by word of mouth.

I am in a better position to know that the social media exerts tremendous power in Sierra Leone because I gauge public reactions when I attack the President or praise him. The reaction is often humongous. Besides, if social media does not carry a venomous sting, why are our AFRICAN governments, including the one in Sierra Leone, trying to regulate it ?

We need to stop underrating the media. if politicians had been listening to the media in Sierra Leone since Independence……

Anyway, the media itself undermines its own importance but I will leave that for another day.

It is the media, ya. It is nothing else…..

There are SIERRA Leoneans who still do not understand that in today’s politics and in fact everything else, it is all about the media. Elections are won and lost on the back of a vibrant media structure or a poor one. In this day of the social media and citizen journalism, any politician or aspirant for societal power who does not position the media in its rightful place in his/ her life will definitely fight a losing battle.

This book illustrates the power, impact and importance of the media. Whether you like to hear it or not, it is the media. Period. The buck stops with us,journalists. Except we do not want todo it, but if we want, we can bring anybody down. We can bring down a whole government. We can bring down a whole high-faulting and puffy individual if we want. You do not need to be involved in wrongdoing for us to bring your world down crashing. A skilled journalist will always find a way to get under your skin and bring you down from your lofty tower. It is just like the Police. They can find any way to give you a ticket or make your life miserable. That is the power we have that we too do not always use.

However, Sierra Leone politicians still have not learnt their lessons with the media. And that is why they are paying costly prices . Give the media the preeminence it deserves and you will soar like an eagle.

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