…but SLAJ scribe returns salvo
OCTOBER 31, 2014 By Patrick J. Kamara
Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha Kanu, yesterday aimed a swipe at Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo for what he claimed as ‘pampering’ the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) during the latter’s outstanding tenure as political head of the ministry.
Senior Presidential Advisor Alhaji Ben Kargbo, a veteran journalist and respected politician, had a convivial working relationship with SLAJ while serving as Minister of Information and Communications from 2007 to 2012.
His successor, who has no media background and no stranger to controversies, has a rather indifferent relationship with the umbrella media organization in the country.
Speaking at the weekly official press briefing at his ministry’s conference hall yesterday, Alpha Kanu, while reacting to a comment by Abdul Rahman Kamara of Star Radio that the controversial nomination of new commissioners to serve the Independent Media Commission (IMC) was “fundamentally flawed”, said he was not in the post to “pamper SLAJ” as his predecessor did.
“IMC appointments are stipulated by law as in the [IMC] Act. But SLAJ was pampered by the former minister in the sense that he (I.B. Kargbo) allowed SLAJ to prepare names of people they want to regulate their activity. That’s wrong. You cannot choose a judge to sit on your case, it’s wrong,” Kanu said.
As a former president of SLAJ and one of those who championed the enactment of the said Act, Alhaji Ben Kargbo understands the object of the Act and the mischief it was meant to remedy in the media landscape. Thus, in accordance with Section 4 of the IMC Act, he acted with remarkable dignity – being a respecter of the rule of law – to act in accordance with the “advise” of SLAJ to convey the latter’s list of nominations to the presidency.
However, his successor thinks otherwise, and claimed that SLAJ was not conversant with the IMC Act of 2000, which according to him is the reason for the media furore over the “presidential nominations”.
Meanwhile, since the controversial nomination of the new IMC commissioners a fortnight ago, SLAJ has questioned its constitutional basis and the ‘spirit’ behind the omission of some names presented by the group, after they were interviewed and endorsed by the entire membership.
SLAJ president Kelvin Lewis has written a letter to President Ernest Bai Koroma to notify him about glaring statutory omissions in the nomination of the new commissioners, contrary to the spirit and letters of the IMC Act, as well as requested an urgent meeting with him.
Reacting to the misguided outburst of the minister, SLAJ Secretary General Moses Kargbo described the appointment of Alpha Kanu as Minister of Information and Communications as the worst thing to have happened to journalists and journalism in Sierra Leone.
“You can always sense the venom in his voice whenever he talks about things having to do with journalists. He’s very unprofessional and arrogant in his dealings with journalists, and I don’t think he even has a clue as to what he’s supposed to be doing at that very important ministry,” Kargbo said.
“He always blames journalists for his misdemeanors, and he even blamed the media as being responsible for the spread of Ebola in the country. So who takes him seriously?”