Statement by KwameYankson on behalf of the Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo (in photo) at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Annual General Meeting held in Bo on 27-28 April, 2012
Mr. Chairman, Your Worship the Mayor of the Municipality of Bo, members of the Local Governance structure, representative of the Chairperson of NEC, President of SLAJ, colleague Journalists, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I bring you greetings and a happy 51st Independence Anniversary wishes from the Minister of Information and Communications, Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, who would have loved to be with us this morning. Due to other equally important State matters he could not make it to Bo.
However, he has asked me to represent him and also make a statement on his behalf at this very important occasion. He also cautioned me to register his profound apology for not making it to this year’s Annual General Meeting of Journalists.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I must commend the Executive of SLAJ and the organizers of this Annual General Meeting of media practitioners for choosing a theme that is close to my heart at this very crucial moment in the history of our beloved country: “The Media and the 2012 Elections.” I call it crucial for the simple fact that our country will be conducting Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council Elections seven months from now and the media has a very significant role to play in terms of not only educating the masses about their civic right to vote and to be voted, but also ensuring that the process itself is rated as credible by the international community and our development partners as well.
A proactive and vibrant media in any part of the world sets the agenda and the politicians as well as the ordinary citizens are bound to follow that agenda, as long as it is geared towards enhancing the socio-economic development of the ordinary citizens.
I need not overemphasize the fact that the media in Sierra Leone, both the electronic and print, have improved significantly over the years. That notwithstanding, there are a few challenges that need to be addressed by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Regulator i.e. the Independent Media Commission(IMC) and even owners of the media houses themselves. These challenges in this context have to do with the relationship between ethics and professionalism. One can easily be called a professional Journalist by your academic qualification or experience on the job, but if you ignore the ethics of the profession for parochial reasons or personal gains, you are no different from a Carpenter who impersonates as a Journalist.
I am drawing this analogy to highlight our role as whistle blowers and watch dogs of our society with specific reference to the 2012 elections that is just around the corner. If the media gets it right, the politicians will get it right also and our country will enjoy a peaceful and enviable democratic process. To achieve this, the media should as a first step discipline itself in terms of the type of materials we put out i.e. content, our editorials, opinion pieces etc. and also avoid attacks on colleague Journalists.
If media practitioners concentrate their energies on educating the public on issues that affect their lives and also preach a message of non-violence during the electioneering process, Sierra Leone will continue to enjoy the peaceful harmattan breeze that blows from the Bintumani hills and the serenity of the Sewa River this year and the years to come.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the media in Sierra Leone will make the job of the Chairperson of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) easier, if we report the news relating to the elections objectively and take our personal interests out of what is supposed to be of national interest. You will agree with me that we all have our individual prejudices, but this must not override the national interest.
As a Ministry responsible for media development, we are willing and prepared to support any effort by our bi and multi-lateral partners and even SLAJ to build the capacity of our media institutions in a manner that will put them in a better stead to cover the November 17 polls professionally.
In concluding, I would like to admonish all of us gathered here this morning that the challenge facing our media in Sierra Leone has little or nothing to do with professionalism but ethics and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency by all key stakeholders before the whistle is blown for the political contest proper.
I wish you all a happy Independence celebration in our sweet Bo. I thank you.