Salone News

We are a people-oriented government’- I.B. Kargbo

31 October 2007 at 21:45 | 537 views

The name Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo is not strange
in Sierra Leonean media circles. Apart from establishing
a house-hold name in the profession, Kargbo has earned
a decent reputation not only in regard to his personality, but that of the profession as a whole while serving as
President of the Sierra Leone Association of
Journalists (SLAJ).

When his appointment as Information and Communication minister was announced,it was greeted with a warm welcome especially from members of the Fourth Estate.

In this interview with our ace correspondent Sorie Sudan Sesay, Kargbo(pictured) spoke
lengthily on various issues affecting the media
including the draconian libel laws as well as his
plans for the journalism profession. Here we go:

PV: It’s about two weeks since you were appointed
Information and Communication Minister, what does your
new appointment look like?

IBK:This is the second time that the Ministry of
Information is being merged with communication - the
first was when Dr. Julius Spencer was made minister.

Well, the appointment is very challenging. We are
trying to restructure the various institutions and
departments within our ministry - I mean the SLBS,
SLENA (which will hopefully revert to its former
status as a news agency). We also want to reactivate
the information mechanism within the Government
Information Service. In fact, we want to ensure that
the national television service goes nationwide.

PV:Alhaji, did your appointment by any means come as a
surprise to you?

IBK:I will not say see, if you take into
consideration my length of service in the media, my
achievements, my experience, I think its possibly in
recognition of that - don’t forget I was once
representing the media in Parliament.

PV:President Koroma has said that Ministers who fail to
perform within the next three months will be sacked,
what do you make of that?

IBK:That is a determined statement from the President, it
shows how committed he is to drive this country
forward. And this means, we all as ministers have to
work hard and move Sierra Leone forward. I am already
working towards that, in fact, I met all department
heads this morning (indicating Monday morning) and I
told them I will not tolerate failures - anybody who
is found not capable to match my standards will have to
face the sack. I am also under pressure from the
President himself and so will not allow anybody to
mess me up. We cannot afford to go back to the dark
ages. We are a people- oriented government.

PV:What do you hope to achieve in three months’ time?

IBK:During my meeting with heads of departments and
institutions, they all show some amount of commitment
to move this country forward, and I believe within
that period, we’ll begin to show signs of commitment.
I have already started my nation-wide tour beginning
from the northern province last weekend. I believe
we’ll achieve results.

PV:One mistake the previous government made was the
neglect of the media, how does your government hope to
avoid that mistake?

IBK:We are not going to make such a mistake - our government
is well committed to the free flow of information and
this is why as I told you, I have embarked on a
nation-wide tour to tell the people what we stand for.

PV:Alhaji, during your reign as SLAJ President, you are
acclaimed generally for upgrading the journalism
profession, does the ball stop rolling now that
you have resigned your position to become a minister?

IBK: No, certainly not. Infact, as you are all aware, I did my
best to give credence to the profession and I am going
to continue in that direction. And the good news is
that, I have taken up a programme to ensure each media
house gets immediate access through printing. I am
finalising a programme to get four coloured printing
machines for independent newspapers to be divided into
four groups which will be run at cost recovery rates.
We are doing this to improve the quality of the

PV: The local press and government have always been at
loggerheads. For example, the NPRC jailed a
good number of journalists, then came the SLPP which is
on record for causing the death of a newspaper editor.
What difference does your government intend to make?

IBK: I was President of SLAJ before my appointment as
Information and Communication Minister, and I am also
the official Government Spokesman - I have earned a
lot of respect in the media. Our government has
respect for the media especially the local media, but
this should not be abused. Our government is in a
hurry to attract investors and we are not going to
entertain any stormy situation; the press and
government must work towards the same goal.

PV:There are certain issues that you left unsettled as
SLAJ President, for example the Harry Yansaneh issue

IBK:I did not leave any unsettled business. The Harry
Yansaneh issue was taken up to a point that government
agreed to to bring the culprits to book, what was
lacking was the extradition of the children of Fatmata

PV: So you see, that issue was unsettled Mr. Minister.

IBK: No, infact as a minister, I can now use my position so that the
issue will come to an end.

PV: Now tell me about your government’s position on the
Criminal Libel Law.

IBK:We are going to deal with part five of it, not the
entire law - I mean the one which criminalizes
journalists. We want to make it that, instead of
sending journalists to jail we can as well put in place
modalities by which members of the public can
also seek redress. That is why I want to seize this
opportunity to encourage the press to respect the
right of other members of the public.