Tsunami of Cyber Propaganda in the Midst of Ebola

By Baimba Sesay :

Social Media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, WhatAssp, amongst others, today play a crucial role in democracy and good governance. They have not only helped in justifying the dictum of the world being a ‘Global Village’ but largely have ensured, especially in the developing world, openness in governance and an easy access to information.

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For instance, through Social Media Pages of Sierra Leone’s State House Communication Team the world is fully abreast with happenings around the presidency in that country. Same is now applicable with a dozen or so Government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies. A number of African Leaders today make effective use of social media; from the former Malawian President Dr. Banda, to the current Kenya President, this has become a way of keeping their citizens fully informed about their activities. This is same with the presidency in Sierra Leone today, through its ‘never sleeping’ Communications Unit.

The outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the Mano River Union Sub region has brought a new trend amongst Sierra Leoneans in the use of social media. Whilst some have used it effectively and with good intent, some, literally, have been pushed into believing this is the moment to make some gains they had failed to make years back, especially in damming Government’s efforts towards national development.

Forget about wolves in sheep clothing, (use of fake profiles), check how others today present their country in the most discouraging and heartbreaking descriptive manner With this EVD, some have taken to the heels, recording damming messages against their country and Government, presenting the most erroneous, non-factual and hate-driven situational reports about happenings back home.

Factually, the Government back home has for the last couple of years since elected into made great strides in moving the country to the apex of socio-economic development. This is so in terms of building our nation’s infrastructure; fixing our economic; sustaining the peace; changing our image at the International Front, and ensuring an investment friendly environment. However, and acceptably so, there still are a plethora of existing challenges which, the President himself is not oblivious of.

As it stands now, Sierra Leone is faced with a daunting challenge in her health sector, more so, following the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease. But the Government has not relented in providing the required leadership in so far as trying to address this national challenge is concerned.

For instance, there continues to be practical and tangible measures taken by Government in the fight against the EVD. The establishment of a Presidential Taskforce and the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) being one, there also has been the decision on the part of Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to disburse billions of Leones towards eradicating the Virus. The declaration of a State of Public Emergency by the presidency; declaration of a day of national reflection; calls for sensitization and public education; and the decision to quarantine two epicenters are just too indicative of Government’s sincerity, commitment and political will to tackle this challenge head-on.

The employment of a number of contract tracers and burial teams, with an improved incentives payment to healthcare workers, coupled with the procurement of over 29 mini vans with a view of fast-tracking the removal of bodies, plus 16 brand new ambulances out of 20, purchased all geared towards the fight against the EVD are just part of what any reasonable Government could do.

The country’s Missions abroad have also not relaxed. From Germany, to the United States of America, to Brussels, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia to the People’s Republic of China, Sierra Leone Ambassadors in these countries have also been part of efforts. Sierra Leoneans around the world have also in their little ways come to the support of their country at this crucial moment. The SLAJ has also come on board with media institutions giving full support.

Our Medical Doctors, Nurses, and other healthcare workers have continued to make a national sacrifice. Doctors have perished, Nurses have died, but they have not relented and they will not give-up. The President has been all over the place, not only monitoring but providing a source of courage, strength and zeal to those who are making these sacrifices. Generally, the President and Government have continued to provide an astute leadership in this fight. We are a resilient people and we are resolved to fight on!

At the international level, development partners have also been supportive of Government’s efforts. The Chinese Government has not only provided medical equipment support to the tune of millions of Yuan support, they have continued to send in Medical Personnel and setting up laboratories in Sierra Leone. This is a clear demonstration of their trust and value attached to the friendship that exists between them and Sierra Leone. Medecins Sans Frontieres and the World Health Organization are also on the ground, providing more support.

Ebola caught the sub region off guard. But with a collaborative sub regional approach, the three countries are definitely sure of overcoming this health challenge in the near future.

It is not just, therefore, erroneous to go on to social media and claim that the Government has not acted, it also may appear to be a clear indication of an attempt to score some kind of tsunami propaganda at this very crucial time in our country’s history. If you are not forwarded a picture of happenings in another country, presenting same as being Sierra Leone, be prepared to listen to a recording from someone in some small corner somewhere out there, ridiculing Government’s effort. And from my reading of things, this is just a tsunami of cacophonic propaganda, but we shall overcome Ebola one day!

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