From the Editor’s Keyboard

2006: Numerous Successes and Bad Media Laws.

29 December 2006 at 01:20 | 517 views

"Having said that, we would to like to stress that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) also contains a lot of people that should not be there in the first place: blackmailers, liars, vindictive, vicious and cruel government hit men and women, malicious and envious miscreants, unrepentant and remorseless gargoyles luxuriating in their wickedness, monsters that have sent many innocent people to their untimely graves with evil, devilish and unsubstantiated allegations and accusations."

By Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, Vanguard Editor/Publisher.

Before I start, I would like, on behalf of the Patriotic Vanguard management to wish every one of you, our readers,a prosperous and Happy New Year.

The year 2006 is slowly dying and fading and we think it’s time to say a few things to our faithful and loyal readers before the curtain comes down. This year has been a most eventful year for us as a newspaper as we experienced a surge in our readership and increasing appreciation of our efforts by Sierra Leoneans and non-Sierra Leoneans alike.

A few examples will suffice: According to our technical team, we currently experience several thousand hits a day as a newspaper which means tens of thousands of people from diverse countries read our newspaper every day; not just Sierra Leoneans to whom it’s mainly targeted. This is a significant achievement for a newspaper set up just two years ago.

Also in 2006, many fine and skillful writers have become our contributors and they include the Maryland-based economist and stock broker Mohamed Jalloh (popularly known as Mohm J), the legal supremo John Lansana Musa, also based in Maryland, USA, the up and coming legal giant Patrick Hassan-Morlai (London, UK)), the self-effacing but hard-hitting former Expo Times deputy editor, Charles Abayomi “Punchy” Roberts (Edmonton, Canada) and the editor and publisher of the Freetown-based Independent newspaper, Alpha Rashid Jalloh and many others.

Alpha is now our Freetown bureau chief who handles all matters dealing with the Vanguard, from advertisements to recruitment of reporters. His role will become more crucial when the paper’s print edition comes out early next year. He can be reached at 232 76 684 043.

Other new contributors and staff members are Teddy Foday-Musa (Holland), Ayo Mason (Holland) and Amadu Wurie Bah (Australia). We are also in contact with the Sydney, (Australia) based Sierra Leonean journalist and novelist Edison Yongai. Edison, who has completed a master’s degree in Journalism and has written a number of novels, hosts a popular radio show targeted at Sierra Leoneans in Sydney and has indicated that he will use Vanguard contents in that show. We will start reviewing his novels in the Vanguard soon. Our newest member is of course former Concord Times editor Sahr Musa Yamba (now based in Winnipeg, Canada).

Our newspaper is also increasingly being consulted, praised and recognized by international political, economic and media organizations like the African Union, the European Commission, the World Bank, Journalists for Human Rights, the BBC and the media gurus of the various political parties in Sierra Leone to name a few. Old friends like Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are also watching our progress.

But not everything has been rosy for the Vanguard in 2006. Like all human endeavours it has faced a number of challenges, the principal one being that business owners in Sierra Leone, both local and foreign, have not yet fully tapped the resources offered by online newspapers like the Vanguard as viable and lucrative locations for advertisement and publicity leading to increased revenue for their businesses.

This paper is currently being run as a free,patriotic and humanitarian service with all the staff working as volunteers (with occasional stipends to defray costs incurred while gathering information), but as we continue to expand we shall become more and more business-oriented with subscribed readers (electronic and print) and reporters on salary and other benefits. Contributors will also be remunerated for their efforts. Currently, the editor and publisher shoulders all of the costs of running the paper but we hope to attract more advertisers and the much needed revenue when the print edition hits the streets of Freetown and the mailboxes of our readers worldwide.

Registering the paper in Freetown is presenting bureaucratic and administrative delays but we are encouraged by the very cooperative attitude of Information minister Septimus Kaikai (photo). Kaikai, who began his assignment as a strident and tiresome propagandist (he is famous for saying, on many occasions, when introducing president Kabbah: ladies and gentlemen, here is your president, my president and our president) has graduated, over the years into a friendly Santa Claus-like figure for the Sierra Leone press. Media watchers say he is perhaps the most popular Information minister in recent times. The worst and most hated, according to the same watchers, is the inimitable Julius Spencer.

We believe, however, that the Vanguard will soon be registered in Freetown and our readers there and in the diaspora will, in a short while, be reading its print edition. As the sages, ancient and modern, keep reminding us, the path to true success is always strewn with thistles and thorns.

We would not end this appraisal without commenting on the debate over the outdated, barbaric and stupid libel laws currently raging in our country; laws that have been kicked out of Britain many years ago by the people who introduced them in Sierra Leone, the British colonialists. All countries have libel laws to protect members of the public, including journalists themselves, from libelous and slanderous statements. But the present libel laws in that country need overhauling and engineering for them to fit it into what obtains in all civilized countries and not become convenient tools to be used by the politicians to silence, jail or force into exile their critics in the media and politics.

Of course journalists need to be responsible for what they write or say but asking them to be insured first before they can write or speak as some people are saying, is one of the most outlandish and bizarre suggestions I have ever heard in my almost two decades in this profession. It’s like asking our doctors (some of whom do kill people through negligence, greed or sheer incompetence), our lawyers (some of whom are thieves and fraudsters), our engineers (some of whom are con artists, grossly incompetent and useless yahoos, diploma manufacturers and petty criminals), our politicians (many of whom are diamond smugglers,fake contractors,shameless thieves and murderers)etc to be insured first before they can practice their different professions.

It just does not make sense. The law will sooner or later catch up with lawbreakers and (in the case of libelous journalists) if they can’t pay the fines, off they go to jail; it’s as simple as that. All we need to do is to continue to review our laws and keep them up to date and relevant to our environment. And they should also be able to withstand the tests of universal decency and fair play.

Having said that, we would to like to stress that the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) also contains a lot of people that should not be there in the first place: blackmailers, liars, vindictive, vicious and cruel government hit men and women, malicious and envious miscreants, unrepentant and remorseless gargoyles luxuriating in their wickedness, monsters that have sent many innocent people to their untimely graves with evil, devilish and unsubstantiated allegations and accusations.

The public has to be protected from the ravages and onslaughts of these people that are dragging the image of the profession in the gutter. Innocent people should be protected from them in the drafting of any new media law. Indeed it’s a relief to know that despite that ghastly and macabre environment we still have decent journalists like president Ibrahim Kargbo and others to help in the cleansing and healing of that badly damaged creature called SLAJ.

I hope you are enjoying yourselves, dear readers, in this time of joy and relaxation. Have fun.

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