He said Sierra Leone is heading into another crucial elections in March 2018, adding that this is the 4th democratic elections since 1996. This elections he went on is crucial in the sense that there’s no incumbency; “we are going to witness a transition of power from one elected President, who has served two consecutive terms, to a newly-elected President.”
In addition, De Monk furthered, more parties have joined the political race bringing in more enthusiasm and tension to the entire process. He said: “Moreover, we have more media now than the previous elections. According to the Independent Media Commission (IMC) latest records, there are 223 registered newspapers and magazines, 55 of which were registered between 2015 and 2017. There are 165 registered radio stations, 39 of which were registered between 2015 and 2017. Of the 29 registered TV and DTH services, 7 were registered between 2015 and 2017.”
The SLAJ scribe went on: “So you see that the media landscape is growing and SLAJ is keeping up with the increasing responsibility of safeguarding press freedom on the one hand and promoting ethical and responsible practice on the other hand.
In times like this, our work as journalists becomes equally crucial. During national elections the media is put on the spotlight. The public rely on us to provide relevant, accurate, fair, balanced and comprehensive information on the elections to enable them contribute to healthy elections debate and make informed choices.
The public want information on the political candidates- their profiles, track records, their platforms and their visions for the country. They want information on the elections processes and the electoral laws. Our traditional role to inform and educate becomes even more important during this period.
It is on this basis that we established the Media Monitoring and Review Committee to collect data, analyse and report on media activities during the electoral cycle- before, during and after.
Most often this monitoring has been done by outside bodies, notably elections observer groups and several CSOs. But this time we have taken the onus to monitor ourselves honestly because our ultimate aim is self-regulation.
When we monitor ourselves we put peer pressure on our colleagues so that they conform to ethical and responsible practice. And when we do so, we justify our long-running fight against Criminal Libel Law; that it should not be in our law books.
Finally, in all of these, the bottom line is ensuring our members adhere to the IMC Code of Practice and the SLAJ Code of Ethics.
We look forward to peaceful, free, transparent and credible elections with the media on top of the situation.”