From the Editor’s Keyboard

Irresponsible Journalism Threatens Press Freedom

15 October 2012 at 02:14 | 1204 views

By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Coming from a God fearing family, committed Christian parents actively involved in the service of God, it was natural for me to go straight to the Choir at Samaria WAM Church at an early age. My tenure on the Treble benches left such an indelible sense of duty to serve God with my voice that when I sojourned in London, I was one of the acclaimed singers in the congregation of the local Anglican parish Church and would often be complimented by some West Indian and English ladies on my voice and they would often ask why don’t I join the Choir? The reason for not joining the Choir was a simple one, try as I would, I could never get myself early enough to Church every Sunday. Having to contend with getting my kids ready is always complicated with my state of Saturday night revelry that would at times guarantee a groggy start to my Sunday mornings. However, with such an upbringing and discipline as I had, I never miss Church service on Sundays, however late, I would always endeavor to attend. I instilled that discipline into my children and now I am quietly pleased that they continue to attend Church although they seem to prefer some of the youth and charismatic churches that are springing up all over London as opposed to the stiff upper lip Anglican Church to which they were baptized. The sound Christian principles instilled in me make it easy for me to keep a steady head on a broad shoulder in such a way that no matter what befalls me, you will see me putting my store on God and not on man.

I would deign to compare my upbringing to that of President Ernest Bai Koroma and would fathom that from what we all know about the man, his Father was a Christian, a devout leader in his church and the Mother a strict disciplinarian but loving, open and caring woman who showered all her children with the love and attention that their infant nurture deserved. Had it not been so, this Country would have been at a loss for Ernest, the young boy at Magburuka School would never have become President or if he had, then without such a firm foundation, he would not have been such a good and excellent leader. So it is, when reports of him engaging in acts unbecoming of his childhood, you have to look again to confirm the time of day or night.

There is a line on “Batman” the Movie, that I recall from the frequent shots used to advertise the film when it just came out some while ago. It goes, “for a grown man, you sure do some childish things.” I was again reminded of that phrase recently when I read an obtuse article, a clearly false and irresponsible piece published on one of the gutter press Newspapers in Freetown. The article made vile allegations against the President, citing a trip made by the President out of Sierra Leone recently to another West African State. The stupendous nonsense of the report is reminiscent of the writings of primary school children, infantile in construction and replete with pure childish fantasy and puerile drivel.

To ought to be acknowledged that the record of the President in guaranteeing a free press in Sierra Leone leaves a heavy responsibility on News Media houses to be responsible in what they pass on as news. The office of the Presidency is the primordial office on which our sovereignty is enshrined. It is therefore a duty and a responsibility on the Fourth Estate that such an office must be respected otherwise grave acts of seditious libel, treason or misprision of treason may be likely breaches that would incur from such disrespect.

That the Newspaper which published such lies is an opposition mouthpiece says one thing but that the owner of the paper himself has been a participant in an oath taking exercise with the SLPP Party goes to show how desperate the attempt to besmear the President is. It may be argued, forcefully that the proponents of such a story believe in occultism and are engaged in it for devious or desperate means after having seen the popularity and love that this President enjoys. It may be that on account of their consistent failures at grasping hold of power by democratic means, they want to resort to other methods they may have tried in the past, to bring approbation on this Country, to rage war and pillage in our villages and carnage in our towns? It is clear from a reading of the nefarious article that such drivel can be nothing but a figment of the writer’s imagination, a robust ploy to discredit a firm believer in God, a futile attempt to bring discord amongst the peaceful citizens of this Country, where religious tolerance, human rights and press freedoms have for the past five years been enhanced under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma. When such a writer is taken to task under extant law, he would wish to lay an accusation on the President and his Government’s door that he is being persecuted for his art. At such a time as we move towards an election, it is a very serious consideration that the article is meant to provoke action that would threaten the enviable record that this President enjoys as the leader in one of the Countries in the World where there are no political prisoners or journalists in jail, not to talk of his commitment to abolish the death penalty in Sierra Leone, for which he has just received an accolade.

It is also interesting to note that the story was published on a day when most if not all the Newspapers in Freetown carried pictures and stories of the mammoth crowd who came out to support the President and his Running Mate as they went to the National Elections Commission to be nominated for another term of office. Did they think that such a story would in any way detract from the glory and admiration that was heaped on the World’s best leader or that such a spurious article would in any way dent his good reputation and international standing? It is laughable to see how desperate men do such foolish things just to get attention. That their story was largely ignored is a good measure of the mood of Sierra Leoneans on the ground. The owner of the Newspaper is known to have recently returned from the United States of America after campaigning for funds on behalf of his Party’s flag bearer who was denied a visa to go to that Country. That they could not raise enough funds may have been responsible for their desperation which was clearly shown when one of their number was banned from a local radio station for bad and unruly behavior unbecoming a political party stalwart.

These people should have learned one lesson by now. This Country is not in any mood to go back to war, to go back to dictatorial rule or to go back to being ruled by people who previously chose to usurp power by the barrel of a gun. Wherever they may have come from, they are best advised to return as Sierra Leone is not for turning. We have enjoyed peace, stability, water, electricity, good roads, improved facilities at our air and sea ports, higher yields in agriculture, secure payments, higher production and processing of produce, widened and expanding educational opportunities, scholarships for students and security of education for the girl-child and other development outputs.

It is significant that the President who has delivered those good things have now promised to do more for us. So for those who do not have power but seek it in any manner of ways, show them the way to the occult, because, as for President Ernest Bai Koroma and the citizens of this Country, we will serve the God!