Many Sierra Leoneans are very ignorant about the media. Though we live in a media society today, with everything pervaded by media, listening to some Sierra Leoneans gives you the sick feeling that they are stupid about the media.
You have public officials who are so clueless about public service that they are not ashamed to boast in public that they do not need the media. Ironically, is it not the media that constructs meaning to the events and other activities these so-called officials participate in, without which what they do would have no meaning at all ?
Secondly, any public official who has come to benefit his /her people and country knows that it is only the media that can effectively propagate his/ her agenda and good intentions .How an appointed or elected government official can stand in public and say he or she does not need publicity just shows the caliber and intellect of that official. Maybe, he or she came to perform another activity different from public and national service. What a shame.
The other problem bedeviling our nation is irresponsible journalism and ignorance about press freedom by media practitioners themselves.
Dictionary .Com defines Press freedom as “the right to publish newspapers, magazines, and other printed matter without governmental restriction and subject only to the laws of libel, obscenity, sedition, etc. ” It goes further to define it as “The right to circulate opinions in print without censorship by the government. ” Freedom of press is a constitutional right.
However , like all rights in the community, press freedom comes with responsibility . Your freedom stops where somebody’s right begins. Some speech are not protected by press freedom or freedom of speech. Slander (verbal defamation) and libel (written defamation), threats, treason, copyright infringements, trade secrets, and promoting unlawful acts are unprotected . So is malicious gossip, a preoccupation that Sierra Leoneans enjoy and now that Social Media has turned every waif into a journalist, is now being practiced with great levity.
False and fake news reports, lies , slander and libel against innocent people and manufactured stories and doctored pictures are now the order of the day in our media. That is all our media practitioners are feeding our people today. Most of our news outlets are scandal sheets , not newspapers.
Maybe, the reason that Sierra Leoneans are so reckless and irresponsible with the media is that the laws of libel, slander , defamation, invasion of privacy and sedition are not being enforced in our country. These laws exist in our law books just to be perused and not to be enforced. Because the authorities are turning a blind eye to reckless and irresponsible media excesses, yellow journalism prevails in the country and is destroying the fabric of the media.
If the authorities had been setting robust examples of irresponsible and reckless journalists who break the law with impunity , the charade in our media landscape would not have been happening.
Our journalists have to be taught that everybody has a right to a good name , until they bend the law. Doctoring stories and pictures against innocent people in the media is wrong and should not be part of us.
When will we start enforcing the Laws of Libel, Defamation and Sedition in Sierra Leone ? Do we really care about Journalism standards in Sierra Leone ?