September 22, 2016 By Memunatu Bangura
Sierra Leone Civil Rights Coalition and Health Network Sierra Leone have raised concern over what they describe as an unhealthy impasse between the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the African Young Voices (AYV) radio and television over land situated at Leicester Peak in Freetown, reportedly property of SLBC.
National Coordinator of the Civil Right Coalition, Alphonso Manley, said the land dispute between the two sister institutions was a serious concern to the public, noting that both institutions are important to disseminating information to the public.
He urged that both media houses should work as a family in the country, adding that it was disappointing for them to take the issue on air rather than ‘washing their dirty lining at home.’
He added that the management of both AYV and SLBC should stop discussing the issue on their radio and television stations with immediate effect and instead take administrative approach to find amicable resolution to the impasse.
Resource Mobilisation Manager at SLBC, Michael Kargbo, said the land issue between SLBC and AYV was a positive conflict and that he was very disappointed over the manner in which the property of SLBC was being sold out to private people and institutions.
He stated that the blame was not on AYV alone but also on the government, especially the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, adding that the bid by SLBC to reclaim their land went beyond AYV.
According to him, AYV requested to rent a piece of land from SLBC at Leicester Peak and that they signed a memorandum of understanding to occupy the said piece of land for two years.
“AYV paid for the land for two years and started constructing a structure on the land,” he said.
He continued that after the two years, the management of SLBC asked AYV to pay rent fee for the occupied piece of land but the management of the private media institution subsequently informed the SLBC that they would not pay the rent as they had acquired a deed for the said land.
Kargbo explained that the SLBC has been the lawful owner of Leicester Peak since 1934 and that late President Siaka Stevens presented the site to them as gift.
“We don’t joke with certain properties owned by SLBC especially Leicester Peak because it is our only source of income,” he said.
He stated that the government was slowly killing the operations of the public broadcaster, blaming the latter for creating the dispute with AYV.
“Government is only paying staff salaries; they are not giving SLBC subventions from the Consolidated Funds as required by law, but rather selling out our only source of income,” he said.
Acting Director of Communication and Head of News and Current Affairs, Samuel Wise Bangura, said they have been following with keen interest and concern the week-long sustained media campaign against AYV on a number of programmes at SLBC.
Bangura said AYV had neither been contacted nor asked by SLBC to make statement.
“We want to inform the public that we have no doubt over the validity of our claim to the piece of land at Leicester Peak as we acquired it legally from the Ministry of Lands,” he said.