By KABS KANU :
It takes only one bad apple to spoil the rest. The shameful rebuttal of the NEWSWATCH newspaper by British officials, in whose mouths it had put words intended to embarrass the government , represents another landmark event in the rapid decline of journalism in Sierra Leone. A country that was once dubbed THE FLEET STREET OF WEST AFRICA because of her outstanding journalism, which served as a watchdog over Government and the interests of the people, has seen her reputation continue to trottle downhill because of the unprofessional and unethical behaviour of some of the charlattans parading as journalists.
The commitment of the Sierra Leone media to serious news and fact-based reporting has gone to the dogs . Journalistic values and standards have fallen so badly in Sierra Leone that the general citizenry no longer believe what they read in their country’s newspapers, helped largely by this Government’s unwillingness to punish libel and sedition because it does not want to be perceived as undemocratic .
CREDIBILITY , the bane of good journalism has faded in Sierra Leone, and newspapers are busily engaged in a cut-throat competition to make themselves more unpopular by publishing lies and biased and prejudiced commentaries about the state of affairs in their country. The lure of the brown envelope has never been more greater as it is an open secret that some journalists receive money under the table to blackmail public officials and embarrass this government. This is a shame for a country that was once called the ATHENS OF WEST AFRICA and the BEACON OF LIGHT of Africa .
If Britain suspends funding to Sierra Leone, who will suffer ? It is not the President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and the Government the NEWSWATCH was trying to embarrass. The people of Sierra Leone are the ones who will suffer. But it seems like our errant , politicized and partisan media men and women, who want to destroy the image of this government in the eyes of her development partners , do not give that a thought. Once they reduce the estimation of the government in the eyes of international world for partisan political gain , that is sufficient. Our media personnel do not care how much harm they cause the poor people with their slash-and-burn journalism. It clearly demonstrates how much they love the people whose interests they must protect and project.
It was the height of unprofessionalism and criminality for the NEWSWATCH newspaper to fabricate facts and put them in the mouths of key officials representing our leading development partner , Britain, the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, Rt. Hon. Simon Hughes and The Secretary of International Development, Baroness Northover, and Deputy Head of West and Southern African Directors’ Office, Jonathan Tostevin. It is just as well that these officials have rebutted the report and announced to the world that they never accused the Sierra Leone Government of corruption . The officials have also made it clear that Britain has not suspended funding to Sierra Leone.
The officials could not have done better because the newspapers allegations are false and detrimental to truthful journalism. As the Director of the Open Government Initiative ( OGI ) , Madam Khadija Sesay educated the public during an exclusive interview with COCORIOKO, a Citizens’ Survey conducted by her agency found that ebola funds are not dispensed by President Koroma and the Government. According to Madam Sesay, the survey found that all monies provided NERC for Ebola are only dispensed after the checks are signed by 4 signatories –one from NERC, another from State House, another from the WHO or UNICEF and another from the Chief Medical Officer ( CMO ) . The Survey further discovered that If there is any questions around any money set to be disbursed for the Ebola fight , the international partners do not sign the checks . There has to be due diligence before they sign. She lauded this move because it impacts on the principles of accountability and transparency. Therefore, how can people accuse the Government of pilfering and misusing ebola money ?
Khadija Sesay also educated the public that international organizations who provide some of the funding for Ebola operate through affliate organizations on the ground in Sierra Leone. The money does not pass through the hands of the government.
While President Koroma and the government do not dispense of funds for Ebola, there is however the possibility that some corrupt government officials will always try to pilfer such funds. The Government acknowledges that fact and last week President Ernest Koroma blasted and threatened those errant officials . This demonstrates the fact that President Koroma and the government are transparent and accountable and will not allow anybody to get away with embezzling Ebola money.
It is not that our media men and women do not know all these facts. They are just not interested in the truth because their main aim is to damage the name of the government for partisan political gains.