July 6, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), members of the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) comprising of key stakeholders in the media industry and academic institutions in the country on Friday (July 3) validated the draft Media Bill and Media Code of Conduct after thorough review processes.
Participants were given the opportunity to critically review the work done by several legal experts on the two drafted documents with a view to making meaningful contributions before validation.
Speaking during the opening ceremony at Hotel Barmoi, MRCG Chairman, Ransford S.C. Wright, stated that following workshops, consultations and research on the media in Sierra Leone, there was a clarion call for the review of the existing media laws.
He noted that with support from the UNDP, the process of review started over the past three years with key media personalities being part of some of those processes.
According to him, the advancement in science and technology, the global economic and financial challenges are all impacting on the environment within which the media operates.
“Failure to reform will not empower us to face the complexity of the environment within which we now operate,” noted Mr. Wright. “There has been persistent call for reform of the media in Sierra Leone because some of the laws governing the media were developed as a strategy for repressive governments to clamp down on the media.”
He opined that if laws are made from a biased political standpoint, those laws would not stand the test of time as they would come back to haunt the media in the future.
“As we meet here to review the work of legal experts, may we be honest in our submissions and think of the good of the future of our nation. As the constitutional review is ongoing, these are defining moments for our nation and we have a responsibility to maximize the moment,” he urged.
Also, Chairman of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Ambassador Allieu Kanu, welcomed the move to validate the two documents because “they are important in the work of my commission”.
He however observed that a day to validate such important documents, in his view, was not enough because, according to him, the documents would engender acrimonious debates when they are made public.
“I ask you all to look at these two documents carefully to make inputs in them,” encouraged the IMC boss. “I want to assure that the IMC will play its own part in the consolidation of the two documents.”
Ambassador Kanu maintained that the documents would empower his commission to enforce the Media Code of Practice in Sierra Leone.
President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Kelvin Lewis, urged all to look at the documents critically and with sincerity as they would apply to them in years to come.
“Let us don’t only look at what operates now but what we’ll have to grapple with in the years to come. Whatever we agree on here we’ll have to live with for the next 10 years or more,” he admonished.