From the Editor’s Keyboard

Random Thoughts

By  | 6 August 2013 at 20:20 | 1177 views

This week, I am going to talk (or write) about a couple of things that I think are quite important. Here they are:

The Environment
As our country slowly industrializes, we need to pay more attention to the environment because without a safe and healthy environment, jobs and infrastructural development would mean nothing. So I would suggest to the newly formed Constitutional Review Committee to include a clause on how to safeguard the environment and what government and the corporate world should and must do to ensure that our land, water, flora, fauna and air remain safe for now and future generations.

I hear that some companies, like London Mining in Lunsar, already have an environmental program in full swing and we congratulate them for that.

Constitutions are not just about politics but about everything affecting the totality of life in a given territory or nation. We shall from time to time make suggestions of this nature to the CRC. By the way who are the members of this committee? Please let us know in the interest of good governance and transparency.

Sierra Leoneans in Canada
Sierra Leoneans in Canada have been neglected for decades by successive home governments probably because it’s so close to the United States that it has been overshadowed by that behemoth, making it virtually invisible. This has to change because Canada is bigger than the US in land mass and should be taken seriously even though the current Canadian government has its gaze turned towards China, India and other Asian countries. But African countries like Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal and Mali are getting some attention due to their democratic credentials and the fact that they have diplomatic missions here.

To change things in Sierra Leone-Canada relations, we are going to start two new columns: 1. What Canada Can Do for Sierra Leone and Vice Versa and 2. Untold Story: Life for Sierra Leoneans in Canada. The titles for the two columns are self-explanatory.

UNESCO and Sierra Leone
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization is one of the most important organizations in the UN system and it has done a lot for countries around the world especially developing and under-developed countries.

Sierra Leone is one of the countries that have not yet developed relations with UNESCO and have thus not fully benefited from what it has to offer. To change that we are coming up this week with a another new column titled What UNESCO Can Do for Sierra Leone.

Journalism in Sierra Leone
Many people have been complaining about journalism and Sierra Leonean journalists back home. They talk about being constantly blackmailed, consistently sufferring extortion, openly asked for bribes and stories appearing on local tabloids falsely accusing them of some horrible crime or action.

"I only buy the local papers here in Freetown just to make sure nothing nasty has been written about me; if there is nothing about me, I throw them away," a Freetown businessman anonymously told PV.

This is a very serious indictment of the press in Sierra Leone (radio and TV seem to be doing well). Things have to change in the media in Sierra Leone and the Ministry of Information has a role to play here. I leave it to them to come up with their own ideas. But here are mine:

1. I think the main problem with journalists in Sierra Leone today is not lack of training or education; it’s extreme poverty. Most journalists in the country earn very little, if at all. A lot of the editors and publishers are struggling themselves. There are so many newspapers and the market is so small, these publications make little or no money every week. So some of them do unethical things to survive. They are (metaphorically) like hit men and women working for the local mafias. Not all of them are bad, though; you still have some good ones (I trained some of them) trying hard to maintain standards but they have only been able to survive because they also work for international media who pay them living wages (to put it nicely). Some, who work for the corporate world, the or international NGOs, are prospering and doing excellent work. But the majority are suffering quietly (like other professionals in the country I shall not name). The need for minimum wage legislation in the country is quite obvious.

To change this Government should provide some incentives like tax breaks or extensive tax holidays for media houses, encourage banks to give loans to those media houses that are not only professional but have exhibited exemplary business management and financial probity. Philanthropists in the country can also set up foundations to help media houses doing a good job as is done in Western countries. Businesses should organize annual competitions providing awards (with significant financial input) for the best media houses and journalists. I understand some companies and the Independent Media Commission are doing something in this direction but we need more of it.

2. Media houses can come together and pool their resources to create viable business entities. It’s senseless to operate a newspaper that cannot pay its staff or is not sure when it will be able to pay the printers. Set up a media company with shareholders. Journalism (both print and electronic) is both a social service and a business. In fact it’s the number one business today because without it no other business or Government itself can survive for long.

Think about that.