President Koroma will continue to vigorously support press freedom in Sierra Leone

Published on January 25, 2011 by Cocorioko News   ·   No Comments

President Ernest Bai Koroma  has always given the assurance that he will continue to  provide total and  vigorous support for press freedom and multi-party democracy in Sierra Leone , despite the  abuse of free speech  by unscrupulous journalists bent on sowing untruths and confusion in the society.  The President ‘s assurance will bring gladness to  the hearts of all progressive and democratic Sierra Leoneans who are already delighted about the wind of change that the All People’s Congress ( APC) has allowed to blow over the media landscape of Sierra Leone.

The APC Government has one of the best press records in Africa. Apart from allowing over 50 or more newspapers and over a dozen radio stations  to flourish in the country without any curbs or restraints whatsoever, Sierra Leone , under President Koroma, has become one of the safest countries to practice journalism, with no media personnel or writer ever subjected to arrests or illegal search and seizures since the government came to power in 2007.  Despite all the fallacious stories being written about him by the opposition, President Koroma promises to make the Sierra Leone press a showpiece of freedom in the whole continent.

The onus is now on the information media  in Sierra Leone to make use of the President’s resolve and goodwill by practising responsible journalism. The inky profession is too important in nation-building to be practised with the kind of reckless and irresponsible abandon  by some opposition newspapers  . The Ernest Koroma Government recognizes that  the right to be heard is a constitutional principle,  but media men and women should  reciprocate  with  a conscious effort to make Journalism more responsible and respectable in Sierra Leone by desisting from writing deliberate  lies about public officials. The press has a duty not only to keep the populace informed but to be a watchdog over truth.  However , when opposition newspapers make it a habit to concoct and peddle cock-and -bull stories about the President and his officials, they are not only abdicating that sacred responsibility but are bringing the profession to disrepute . No wonder journalism in Sierra Leone is now regarded with scorn.

It is a betrayal of journalistic ethics to lie on government officials . It was the same NEW PEOPLE  newspaper, which in 2008, falsely accused Vice-President Sam Sumana of buying a mansion in New Jersey. With New Jersey being a state  with one of the largest concentration of Sierra Leoneans in the U.S,  where will the Vice-President be owning a home in the state without Sierra Leoneans seeing it ?  The New People failed to realize that there are many Sierra Leoneans involved in the mortgage business in New Jersey, many of them being members of the SLPP. If the story had been true , these Sierra Leoneans would have known because they have access to all records of  home sales  in the state . To this day, nobody has seen the alleged house bought by the V-P, proving  that the story  was just a figment of the imagination of the New People writers.

The question being asked is : Why the  fascination with concocting stories about real estates bought by government officials ? The reason is simple. The SLPP press just wants to portray government officials as being self-seeking and insensitive to the plight of the poor. It is a propaganda trick used to tarnish the names of officials with whose execution of  duties they have found no complaints with.

President Koroma, for instance, is at the apogee of   his leadership. Everybody in the nation is praising him for the turn around he has brought to the nation ‘s socio-economic and political fortunes. Magnificent and state-of-the-art roads and infrastructure are adorning the national landscape ; hope has sprung eternal in the hearts of all Sierra Leoneans . Even internationally, the President’s reputation and profile keep skyrocketting. index after index declare him one of the best leaders in Africa. Everything, every statistic is in the President’s favour . International awards keep coming. Under these circumstances, the SLPP has nothing negative to say about the President’s job performance and achievements .The only thing they can then do is to make up stories that the President has gone and bought a hotel in a foreign country.  They think that this will shift the favourable perception the masses have about their President.

 The SLPP press should however note that however gullible our people, we today live in a global village where, thanks to the revolution in information technology, lies have no chance of surviving the light of day. It is gratifying that Sierra Leoneans have already connected with their countrymen and women resident in Las Palmas , who have proved that the story is completely false–That there has not been any hotel sale in Las Palmas in recent times, not to mention one involving a Sierra Leonean. There are so many Sierra Leoneans living in Las Palmas that news of a citizen of the country buying a hotel there  would not have been secret. Also,  in  Las Palmas, because of her  status as a tourist centre , records of hotel  sales are in the public domain. Conducting  a property sale  search in Las Palmas is consumately easy and real estate companies  even aid it because shady ownship of hotels is not permitted.

No wonder the New People defeated itself  ultimately by stating :  ” New People sources cannot ascertain whether it is the same hotel owned by President Koroma’s role model the notorious Siaka Stevens.” This singular statement condemned the newspaper as being very irresponsible and sloppy with  its news-gathering techniques . Anybody who has studied  Journalism knows that it is one of the cardinal principles of the profession for journalists to crosscheck their stories before publishing them. How can the paper make such a dumb riposte after a very  bold assertion in its headline   : “AS HARDSHIP INTENSIFIES IN SIERRA LEONE, PRESIDENT KOROMA THROUGH THE HELP OF KEMOH SESAY BUYS HOTEL IN LAS PALMAS “  ? ( There was no question mark at the end of the banner headline yesterday. The editors only inserted it after COCORIOKO and NEWSTIME AFRICA took the paper to task for the story, attesting also to the dishonesty of the editors  ) . Where did investigative journalism go ? Should not the paper have done a title search first and confirmed the sale and new ownership, as applicable, before coming out with such a wild accusation ?  This title search would  not only have authenticated the story but it would have boosted the paper’s image  as a news outlet very efficient with its techniques of news-gathering. But then, how does one try to authenticate a made-up story ?

The New People owes President Koroma and the nation an apology and the sooner they become man enough to do it, the better for the reputation of the men and women associated with that newspaper.

It was Sylvia Blyden who yesterday wrote about one of the star analysts of the New People, one Professor Kelfala Kallon  :  ” …  the poor old man needs to change his spectacles.. to be  able to read and understand”.  With stories like this, it is not only the poor old man that needs to change his spectacles. The editors of the New People need to do the same to be able to gain a more accurate world perspective of reality.

And talking about ethics, Blyden  did warn :  “Professor Kallon should not try to speak about ethical journalism here when he is aligned to the  New People Newspaper “.  This salient truth  about the New People could not have been said better.

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