Speaking at the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) Golden Jubilee Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Bo past weekend, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications Mohamed RadoSwaray assured journalists thatPresident Dr. Julius Maada Bio has been clear about his vision for the media in Sierra Leone.
He said it is one in which media practitioners and the government can collaborate to foster development, adding that the president considers the media an indispensable ally in efforts at transforming the country.
The minister went on that the president has consistently promoted policies for press freedom and the safety of journalists and that he also believes that a free press has to be anchored on professionalism and sound ethical practices.
“The President’s unwavering support for freedom of expression as an inalienable human right aligns with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as key provisions in our constitution. Free expression, itself an offshoot of free media, is antithetical to violations of human rights. Free expression nurtures democracy. In fact, without it democracy is impossible” the minister stated.
He congratulated SLAJ for reaching 50 years, whiles noting that this year’s celebration is poignant given the repeal of Part V of the 1965 Public Order Act and that repeal has triggered great expectations of a vibrant media and robust civil society, and of a strengthened democracy.
He said this year’s theme for SLAJ AGM which is, “Looking inwards, looking outwards: Towards a strong accountable and united SLAJ and a free and professional media,” is apt given the times we are in, urging all SLAJ members to take this opportunity to reflect on issues pertinent to press freedom and ethical conduct.
In addition the minister said this year’s World Press Freedom Day theme, “Information as a Public Good,” affirms information as an instrument for the public good and explores how the production, distribution and consumption of content can advance transparency.
Both themes (for SLAJ’s AGM and for the 2021 World Press Freedom Day) he said recognise the fast-changing ways by which we communicate and their impact on our human rights, democracy, peace and security and other elements of national development. Minister Rado said: “Undoubtedly, the media sector in Sierra Leone is growing and becoming increasingly diverse. When free speech is deliberately exercised to stoke violence or advance selfish interests, it undermines the important role of the media in society”.
As these freedoms are enjoyed, the minister called on all to be mindful that the very constitution that grants freedom of expression also places responsibilities in how free that freedom is exercised.
He closed in saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, I say to you today: let’s be mindful of the choice we make. I believe that the media is a key part of society and that media practitioners cannot destroy the society they are a part of. This, to me, encapsulates the concept of social responsibility. And I commend it to you.”