By Mohamed Sheriff – Switzerland
It was a manifesto commitment of the Sierra Leone People`s Party in promoting Press Freedom in the country, thereby allowing investments in the media. Past governments failed to create that enabling environment for the private sector investment into the media landscape of Sierra Leone.
In the recent past, President Julius Maada Bio, has proven his pragmatic and quality leadership to fulfill his party’s manifesto commitment to abolish the Criminal Libel Laws by repealing Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act. This will go down in history regarding the promotion of media freedom.
Thanks to the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, who believes in the ideology and vision of President Bio in making sure that parliament and all other stakeholders, participated in the repeal process.
This is a significant milestone of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s commitment to human rights accountability, democracy, peace, and transparency.
Before this time, the Fourth Estate was always bitter with the continued existence of the seditious libel law, the absence of Freedom of Information, the limited capacity of journalists, the absence of a truly independent and impartial national broadcaster, and also dozens of private investors were afraid to invest into the country’s media landscape.
But today, dozens of the private sectors around the world feel secured and beaming to invest their monies into the Sierra Leone Media landscape because of the government’s commitment to fundamental human rights, freedoms of individuals and the capacity of journalists through the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and other Media Institutions.
These commitments by President Bio were recently manifested by the UN Member States who commended the Government of Sierra Leone for taking decisive steps in repealing the 55-year-old criminal libel law.
As a foot soldier of President Bio, he believes in media governance. In which, State and the Media interact to design and implement policies within a set of formal and informal rules to shape all and sundry.
A few months ago, President Bio with his dedication to press Freedom engaged major media outlets being a servant of the people. He was hosted by radio and TV stations and consented to the town hall meeting to subject himself to scrutiny in line with section 11 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, in celebration of his three years of unquestionable development scorecard across the country.
It was evident that President Bio is one of the sitting President and Presidential candidates in the history of Sierra Leone who was terrorized by the media. But notwithstanding, after he won the 2018 elections, his relationship with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, media institutions and individuals is a phenomenon.
Today, the Bio’s administration provides a budgetary subvention to the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, training of journalists and the provision of funding opportunities for journalists.
His government is now collaborating with SLAJ to organise the first Media Conference to encourage the private sector to invest in the Sierra Leone media. A step in the right direction!
It’s not a secret that President Bio is a true democrat, sincere in leading Sierra Leone, and unpretentious about the tremendous achievements he has made in the past three years, for journalists or journalism in Sierra Leone.