President Ernest Bai Koroma has underlined his government’s commitment to freedom of the press, and how he is prepared to engage in a dialogue with regards reviewing press laws in Sierra Leone.
Addressing the Chairperson and members of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) who presented their 2008 annual report to him on Friday 7th August 2009 at State House, the Head of State said, “We believe in enhancing freedom of the press, and matters regarding the review of certain rules will be addressed.”
He said there’s need to open a dialogue on the issue to engage all stakeholders, including journalists, policy makers, and members of the public.
President Koroma noted the difficulties and challenges the Commission is faced with, but that the overall press world has improved since the Commission was established, “though there’s still room for improvement.”
He urged the Commissioners to continue to ensure professionalism and to protect the public interest, while assuring that, “As a government, your independence is guaranteed. You have your rules and regulations; you should make sure that they are followed.” The President assured that he would give consideration to all other issues raised regarding the Commission and journalism in Sierra Leone.
Speaking earlier, IMC Chairperson Bernadette Cole commended President Koroma for protecting the Commission’s independence, and “we have no doubt that under your esteemed leadership, the IMC will continue to enjoy unbridled freedom and autonomy in implementing its mandate.”
She went on “we commend your government for addressing the communication gap caused by the decision of the IMC to withdraw its licenses from the two political radio stations. We are heartened that the long-drawn issue of the corporatisation of the SLBS…. has now become a reality, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation Act having been passed by Parliament yesterday.”
She joined the “clarion call for the decriminalization of the Criminal Libel Laws and for the enactment of the Information Bill.”
She also requested government’s consideration in terms of supporting Community Radio stations because funding agencies “have now pulled out and the radio stations are struggling to survive.” The Report itself “details the activities undertaken by the Commission in pursuit of [its] mandate.”Among the Commissioners present were Christo Johnson, Mohamed Samoura, Isaac Massaquoi, Joshua Nicol, Augustine Garmoh, and Cassandra Davies.