As the ENCISS national dialogue concluded yesterday at the Bank of Sierra Leone complex at Kingtom, Independent Media Commission (IMC) chairperson Bernadette Cole has revealed that the Commission “…is not afraid of any radio station.”
She made this declaration during a roundtable discussion on developing milestones to make the media more effective in managing diversities and promoting cohesion.
At this forum which was chaired by Premier Media, Dr Julius Spencer issues regarding freedom of expression, access to information, the criminal libel laws, remunerations for journalists and the recent closure of the political party radio stations were discussed.
The issue regarding the closure of the All People’s Congress (APC) ‘Rising Sun’ radio and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) ‘Unity’ radio sparked up a heated debate – firstly on whether it was right to have political party radio stations and also the Vice President’s action to close down the radio station was also questioned.
Speaking about the closure of the political party radio stations, the IMC chairperson revealed that when the radios were broadcasting irresponsibly “we called these radios at least 12 times [before the clash]”.
She explained that the commission was getting closer to concrete evidence to stop the two radio stations from operation. The commissioners were with recorders monitoring there broadcast she said.
“We needed about one to two months to come with the evidences [before the Vice President chipped in and halted there operations], she explained.
President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Umaru Fofanah stressed that IMC must speed up the process of investigation on the banning of the radio stations.
He further stated that it is unfair to bar political party radio stations from operation, disclosing that “there are so called independent radio stations that are as bad as the political party radio stations [which are still in operation],” he said.
George Coleridge-Taylor argued that we have experimented political radio stations “we’ve seen and felt its toxic effect.”
But World Bank’s Sidi Sheriff on the other hand argued that being that Sierra Leone is the first country to have political party radio stations it does not mean that we should rule out its positive socio-political and developmental effect.
However, the general consensus was that political party radio stations must come back into operation, operating fully under the IMC codes of conduct.