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SLAJ writes President Koroma on IMC nominations

OCTOBER 30, 2014 

President Ernest Bai Koroma

State House

State Avenue

Freetown

Dear Sir,

Re: IMC Nominations and attacks on media personnel for Ebola reporting (Kono, Koinadugu)

I write to respectfully request audience with you on the issue of the new nominations to the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the recent attacks on media practitioners while reporting on Ebola-related activities.

Sir, we note a few issues, which we observe and wish to bring to your attention.

(1) The Constitutional provisions of the IMC Act 2000 as amended with particular reference to the interpretation of Section 4(1) and the words “acting on the advice of SLAJ”.

(2) Also Section 4 (2) (b, c & d) and the interpretations of the word “expert”.

(3) Section 4 (2)(f) – the SLAJ Representative (Sahr Mbayo) is serving a second term and has been issued a fresh letter to appear before parliament when he is continuing in the same stead as the Telecommunications expert, Muctarr Turay, who is also serving his second term.

(4) We note that the nomination letters copied SLAJ do not specifically indicate the positions (except for Chairman) for which the nominations have been made; e.g. expert in Print, expert in Radio or expert in TV etc.

Sir, we agree that legal opinions defer on almost all issues but we request an understanding of the “spirit” of this provision and a common ground agreement, for better working relationships.

Sir, Section 4(2)(b, c and d) makes reference to “experts”.  In trying to reach an understanding of the word, we looked up the word in the Wikipedia online dictionary, which says an expert “is a person with extensive knowledge or ability based on research, experience, or occupation and in a particular area of study.” A second definition from Merriam-Webster Online says an expert is a person “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced.”

The two main themes here are knowledge and experience. Knowledge we agreed is acquired through academia, while experience is acquired through apprenticeship. A person becomes an expert when the two attributes are acquired over a substantial period of time.

Hence SLAJ agreed that a suitable candidate for any of the expert positions must show evidence of academic standing (Certificate, Diploma, Degree in Journalism or related field) accompanied by evidence or attestation of apprenticeship over a period of ten years where the candidate must have moved from a cub reporter to Editorial or management level.

Through a process of interview and voting, we came forward with three candidates who we examined and are confident meet the stated criteria.

Francis Sowa: B.A, M.A, M. Phil – Mass Communication

2001 – reporter/presenter at SLBS in 2001,

2007 – Producer SLBS.

2007 – Stringer Cotton Tree News (CTN)

2009 – producer and then Deputy News Editor (CTN),

2009 – News Editor (CTN) Hirondelle Foundation

2009 – 2013 Manager Radio Mount Aureol

2010 to date – Western Region Coordinator Independent Radio Network (IRN)

2010 to date – Lecturer Mass Communication FBC

*Mustapha Sesay B.Ed, M.A Mass Communication

1994-2000 Reporter, News Editor & Proofreader Standard Times Newspaper

1998-2001 Press Officer Amnesty International

2000-2004 Researcher & Facilitator (iEARN)

2004-2011 Head Creative Practical Arts Dept – Muslim Brotherhood Sec. Sch.

2006-2008 Assistant Sec. Gen SLAJ

2007-2013 Senior Correspondent Sierra Eye Magazine

2008-2010 National Secretary General SLAJ

2011-2013 Director of Education, Communications and Training (HRCSL)

2014 to date Editor in Chief News Watch Newspaper

* Although this name was submitted to you, it was never included on the final list.

James Bola Williams – Diploma in Journalism

1976 – We Yone Newspaper

1977 – Daily Mail

1982 – Stringer New African Magazine (London)

1982 – Sports presenter, Radio Lagos

1982 – 86: Punch Newspaper Nigeria, Senior Reporter Sports Editor

1986 – 90: Prime People Nigeria – Senior Reporter

1999 – Nigeria Magazine – Editor

1999 – 2002: Vanguard Newspapers

2003 – Senior Reporter Awoko Newspaper

2005 – Premier Media Consultancy – Media Officer

2007 – 2012 Editor Premier News

2013 – Sub-Editor Awoko Newspaper

Sir, you will agree that the main problem politicians and the public have with the media is the perceived recklessness with which people are robbed of their “good name” Our view then was to find a candidate who would wield the stick in such a manner that court cases will be reduced, professional practice will be enhanced, and errant practitioners will be conditioned to stay in line.

Such a character we found in Mr. Battiloi Warritay as Chairman for the simple reason that he is an elderly man, strict and proven administrator, and has the ability to secure funding for training and general development of the media; especially so when post Ebola funding from government will be in very short supply.

His commitment to media development was very evident during his short stint at the IMC and most definitely he will not struggle to gain respect from all levels of media practitioners. So our focus is really discipline and media development. We are sure you share the same ideals for the media in Sierra Leone.

Battiloi Warritay

Mr. Batilloi Warritay is a professionally trained Broadcaster and Theatre Director and has worked as a Media and Communication for Development Specialist in 7 African countries over the past 35 years.

He currently serves as a freelance Communication for Development Specialist, who returned to Sierra Leone in 2010 after a distinguished career with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for nearly 20 years.

2011 – 2013: – UNDP funded Consultant/Director to the Independent Media Commission, establishing a Media Monitoring and Programmes Unit,

2005 – 2008: – Deputy Representative and Head of the UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe Country Office

2002 – 2010: – Assistant Representative of the A Field Office (Enugu) UNICEF Nigeria,

2001: – Chief Information and Communication Officer UNICEF Nigeria

1995 – 2001: – Chief, Information and Communication Officer, Unicef Country Office Angola

1992 – 1995, Communications and Media Consultant for the UNICEF East and Southern Regional Office (ESARO) 1990 – 1992.

Sir, we also seek clarification as to which category each individual is nominated, in line with the provisions of the IMC Act 2000 as amended (2006).

Sir, with due respect the list of nominations has fallen far short of our expectations and we are hereby registering our notice of appeal against it.

The second aspect Sir is that media practitioners in Kono are hiding for their lives as they came under sustained attacks from youths claiming that the media has been hiding and propagating Ebola issues. This is a serious case as 3 radio stations have been physically attacked. We have also had cause to intervene in disputes in certain areas like Koinadugu where the radio station came under pressure because they reported the official confirmed cases as reported by the then EOC in its daily Ebola updates in the community, even though the community had gone for over 4 months without recording any case. That situation has been handled by the SLAJ-VP but we fear that more issues like these will keep coming up and they need to be addressed quickly.

Sir, when the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) got out of control you called on SLAJ to join you in performing a patriotic duty. This we have done with even your commendation and which we will continue to do. However, when in performance of our patriotic duty our lives are being threatened simply for doing our job, then we must call on you again to address this very worrying trend before it gets out of hand, hence our request for a frank discussion on the way forward.

Looking forward to your response.