Evil journalism in Sierra Leone

29 October 2010 at 05:18 | 1453 views

By Ibrahim Sourie Mansaray, Stockton, California, USA.

Just a few weeks ago, the British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC) correspondent in Sierra Leone , who incidentally is the president of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ),Umaru Fofanah, gave a vivid picture about the deplorable state of education in the diamond rich district of kono. The report, accompanied by photos, captured the attention of all patriotic Sierra Leoneans far and wide.

It was not only pathetic but revealing to all that the road to recovery is a long way ahead. The journalistic acumen of Umaru was fascinating. It brought memories of old school days of students who had attended the schools mentioned in the report. Last night, whilst writing this report, a friend of mine from China emailed me about the visit of the president of the republic to Kono district. Wonderful news. Is it because of the report on Kono or just coincidence? Whichever way, it shows the president is listening to the cries of the poor people of the country. That is good journalism: detect the problems and report objectively and if possible proffer solutions. Of all the reports on Kono, there were no judgmental opinions by the correspondent.

However, the question to the president of SLAJ is, how will he tame the shrew in his own association? Quite recently, a publisher of a local newspaper in Sierra Leone compared the imbroglio in Guinea to that of Sierra Leone. The publisher was insinuating that the death of civilians and the impasse in Guinea will be replicated in Sierra Leone should the authorities fail to change the National Electoral Commissioner. What a bad thought process!

In an article written by Oswald Hanciles, he recalled the brutal episodes that characterized Rwanda in the conflict between the Hutus and the Tutsi in the 1990s. In Rwanda, even before the death of former president Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash, the press had already engaged in a dirty psychological mind game of promoting tribal sentiments amongst the populace.

It therefore came as no surprise when the massacre erupted after the death of the president. That shows how the press can instigate people in a tense country.Rwanda is still reeling from the effects of a war that consumed thousands of innocent lives. What a pathetic episode! Even now, Bosnian Serbs are destroying ethnic Albanians in a civil war the world would like to abort.

In Sierra Leone, the internet has occupied the center stage of the young and the old. Even those with no access to internet facilities know what is being written in the papers. Now , there is an old concept re-emerging in the populace; that anything written in the papers or aired over the media is true. Comparing the brouhaha in Guinea to Sierra leone is unfortunate and unfair. Guinea had never had a democratic election since independence, so everything to the country is new. Some may resist any new methods introduced on the pretext that it is new and it is a ploy by the authorities to outwit the populace.

Sierra Leone is far and wide ahead of Guinea in upholding democratic principles. The country,Sierra Leone , had had three credible elections though some had been characterized with discrepancies. In the James Jonah era, the whole country knew the election results were fraudulently misplaced but the country accepted it.The winner, the late octogenarian, Karefa Smart of blessed memory, did not call for violence. As an honorable father, he accepted the results and called for calm. What a service to the country. The Tejan Kabbah tenure introduced the proportional representation which contravened many democratic principles, but was generally accepted ,even by the international community. The Christiana Thorpe administration also had their own problems with the Kailahun votes. But as a country, the whole populace accepted it in a bid to ensure serenity and tranquility in the country.That is what Sierra Leoneans are known for.

The idea of violence ocurring in Sierra Leone as a result of the electoral commissioner is obsolete and archaic. In Guinea, people are being shot every now and then. Does the publisher want peace or war in Sierra Leone? The trouble is that we, homo sapiens, are born with primitive instincts to kill or promote violence. It is our jungle heritage. Since evolution dictates survival of the fittest, some of the fittest have been the most strong and ruthless.They were able to hunt effectively and wage war.They were able to defend themselves against other attacking groups. But it was not just the most fierce and ruthless that survived. Among the fittest were those with intelligence, reasonableness and the ability to cooperate. What we have today, in some persons, is a mixture of destructive instincts and constructive inclinations. When we read about senseless killings, we can’t make sense of why one person would want to destroy another. We hate to think that some people actually get a sadistic thrill from killing, from exerting ruthless and indomitable power and destructiveness.

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists should act as the parents “taming the instincts” in their fold. Most civilized people have a hint of their destructive potential in angry fantasies when things do not go their way, either by blackmailing people or writing negative reports about people. The association must introduce some reforms especially with the formation of the Editors Guild to ensure fair play before the elections in 2012. This should be the first big battle in which some people’s natural narcissism must give way to moral demands. This can be done gently and patiently, but firmly and persistently, giving rewards for deserving service to the profession.

The people of the country are looking up to the journalists to play a leading role in upholding the tasks of fair game. Whilst thousands are in the diaspora with families back home, our only prayer and cry is for peace to prevail in our motherland. The love to return to home and see our families is burning in us always. We do not want to hear any more war cries.

May God bless Sierra Leone.