Let us speak the truth and let the devil be ashamed. One of the most solid foundations President Ernest Bai Koroma has laid in Sierra Leone since he came to power in 2007 is that of FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND DEMOCRACY.
Today, as we celebrate the last WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY under President Koroma’s rule, we have to pay glowing homage to a man who may well be one of the champions of press freedom and multi-party democracy in turbulent Africa.
n Sierra Leone today, the media are completely free, in fact perhaps the freest in all Africa. Newspapers, both in print and online, and the radio and TV write whatever they want about the President and the government. Allegations, most of them bordering on the absurd, the libelous, the seditious and what-have-you are levied against President Koroma and government officials.
There are even many instances when the media have gone out of hand to publish stories about the President and the government based on lies that in other countries would have earned the writers or producers instant arrest, court charges, jail time and even death, but the President and his team demonstrate impeccable tolerance and thick-skinness that deserve accolades.
In other instances, some media practitioners have even published dangerous articles that do not only incite the people to rise up against the government , but damage the international image of the country and why President Koroma never took action beggars belief.
But the answer lies in the fact that when he came to power in 2007, President Koroma told the nation that he had come to create a new Sierra Leone A new Sierra Leone based on transparency, accountability, respect for the Rule of Law and fundamental human rights like freedom of speech and freedom of association. And this promise the President has kept throughout his rule.
Before President Koroma came to power, Sierra Leone was the most dangerous country to practice journalism. Media men and women were being beaten to death as in the case of Harry Yansaneh; harassed, thrown in jail and left to die as it happened to Conrad Roy; or made to become mere skin and bones in jail as it happened to Paul Kamara or put on death row as was done to Hilton Fyle and others.
The Governments then had no respect for press freedom or free speech, or for the safety and security of journalists but today we have a President and Government that have treated the media like precious jewels .
Journalists have enjoyed their freest and best moments in Sierra Leone under President Koroma and so today, when the world is celebrating World Freedom Day, we join Sierra Leoneans all over the world to celebrate PRESIDENT KOROMA –a true champion of free speech, a true man of democracy and press freedom and an incomparable kinsman , who will leave indelible footprints in the sands of time.