All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’ - Edmund Burke

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S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 8 No 5

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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SMOKE AND MIRRORS AGAIN AS PARLIAMENT TRIES TO DEPRIVE THE PEOPLE OF A TRULY NATIONAL
BROADCASTING SYSTEM

It was only three weeks or so ago that the Sierra Herald got a copy of a draft bill setting up the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation - a move by the government that was applauded by media gurus and a few of the public who had access to the document. It is to be stressed that such an important document aimed at freeing the national broadcaster from government control was never made a topic for public discussion sending signals that the final draft that would be sent for President Koroma's signature could be a cheese and chalk scenario.

Reports from Freetown say that according to the Bill (again not made public for discussion or media professional comment), a move which should have seen government relinquishing its grip on the national broadcaster, the important position of the head of the envisaged new body is to be appointed by the President!!!!!

Here's an excerpt from the draft bill on the appointment of the Director-General of the new body who rightly should be appointed by the Board set up to run the affairs of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, SLBC.

8.3.          The Director General and the Deputy Director General shall be appointment by the Board on terms and conditions to be determined by the Board.

"A person to be appointed Director General/Deputy Director General of the Corporation shall be a person who has experience and demonstrated competence in successful running of public and /or private commercial enterprises in, among others, utilities, industry, commercial services, including broadcasting, etc."

The rest of the provisions of the Bill now awaiting the pleasure of the President can well be imagined with this duty now removed from the Board and placed under the control of the President who no doubt will hire and fire whoever he thinks should be his servant at the national broadcaster. Do not lose any sleep over this should you see another APC party faithful heading an institution that should be independent and out of the machinations and control of the government.

What a shame and what a show of willful deception by the smoke and mirrors President and his cohort calling themselves "honourable" and occupying such seats in the country's law-making body. And talking about that title "honourable" could it have been rendered useless and without due respect after the beasts of no nation in the AFRC/RUF coalition of evil tagged themselves with it? We hope not.

And lest you forget, kindly remind yourself that it was this same self-serving Parliament that convened itself on a national holiday in Sierra Leone to reward Libya's Colonel Khaddafi with an honorary citizenship - a man openly linked to support for the beasts that raped and murdered our citizens as well as laying waste vast swathes of our great country!!!

The Sierra Herald would like to call on all the stakeholders, especially the international community to put a halt to this daylight fraud and deception by Parliament and by extension the President making sure that should he sign such a fraudulent document for it to become law, that the necessary sanctions are put in place against the government.

Under Sierra Leone's constitution, the President can refuse to sign such an obnoxious document and would send it posthaste to the somewhat shameless body. Parliament can however, with a two-thirds majority get it through minus the signature of the President. All these provisions were put in to safeguard the law makers, but if the law makers take upon themselves to be "employees" and pleasers of the President, then all their individual heads would be on for all the ills that eventually befall the country because of their criminal negligence.

The Sierra Herald would want to remind the President and more especially Parliament of the hopes of the UN and would want to remind those Parliamentarians reading this to look up this link on the website of the UNDP in Sierra Leone relating to the media in Sierra Leone.

The creation of the SLBC is timely. Party-operated radio stations accused of exacerbating violent inter-party clashes during March 2009, were subsequently suspended by the government. “We are all aware of the dangerously destabilizing impact of partisan and ethnic radio outlets in many parts of Africa over the past decade. Creating an independent broadcaster where all voices can be heard removes the rationale for partisan radio and offers a much superior alternative”, Orme {William Orme, Media Development Advisor, UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL)} says.

UN Radio will close in September 2009, after nine years of operation. Should the proposed transition from a traditional state broadcaster (Sierra Leone Broadcasting System) to an independent public broadcasting corporation (SLBC) be approved by Parliament and signed into law, the UN has pledged to support this new democratic institution with technical support, transitional aid from the UN Peacebuilding Fund, and all the assets and infrastructure of UN Radio.

The UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone  (UNIPSIL) supports democratic institutions through capacity-building, technical support, and financial assistance, in coordination with the Government and the donor community.

For those with the penchant to conjure up bouts of selective amnesia, please be reminded that the Government of Sierra Leone, then headed by President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Kingdom government under PM Tony Blair and one of the points agreed upon was and remains

Free and independent media introduced - Government takes necessary steps to establish SLBS independent of government control, by the end of March 2004.

And further to this when the Sierra Herald raised the issue of corruption as well as the less haste to have an independent national broadcasting institution, thus making SLBS a Corporation free from government control, this was what an official of the London office of DfID wrote

There were two media related benchmarks in the MoU to be achieved by the end of 2004. One of these related to the establishment of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which was met. The other, relating to the independence of the SLBS, was not met. More needs to be done on this.

It is now left with the President and indeed Parliament to get its act together and give the people what they need - an independent national broadcaster free of government manipulation.

Giving the President the power to appoint the Director-General of the envisaged Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, SLBC, is a non-starter and a retrogressive move.

We urge the international community as well as the people of Sierra Leone including journalists of an independent disposition to oppose this attempt at dispossessing the people of their voice.

 

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©Sierra Herald 2002