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SPEECH BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE IMC GEORGE S. KHORYAMA AT THE LAUNCH OF THE PRESS FREEDOM REPORT BY THE MRCG, FRIDAY MAY 17, 2019 AT SLAJ HEADQUARTERS.

July 18, 2019

I bring you greetings from the family of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) with thanks and appreciation to the MRCG and partners for having us as part of this important occasion. It occurs that the functions of the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) are a mirror-image of those of the Independent Media Commission’s (IMC) in the pursuit of having a vibrant, efficient and responsible media in Sierra Leone. While the MRCG monitors and caters for press freedom in the country among other functions, we at the Independent Media Commission (IMC) regulate the media to ensure that the media achieves the highest level of efficiency in the provision of their media services. We are to protect both the interest of the public and journalists against any form of exploitation among many otherresponsibilities.

It also occurs that the period covering this second report of the MRCG coincides exactly with the period that we have been in office – December 2018 to May 2019. This period under review by the MCRG for us at the IMC has been very challenging; challenging in the sense that we have been overwhelmed with complaints from the public against journalists for defamation, libel, and all forms of inaccurate and bias reporting. Every week the complaints committee has to meet to investigate those complaints against journalists/media houses, both print as well as electronic. And in almost all those investigations journalists are found wanting.

Worst still most media houses have refused to cooperate with the IMC by failing to renew their yearly licenses, paying up their arrears dating as far back as 2014. One of them even threatened to take us to court for inviting him for investigation. He thinks we are the same old commission that he belonged which is farther from the truth.

We recently fined 11 media houses/journalists for breach of the IMC media code of conduct. Guess what? Only two of them paid the fines but refused do a retraction and apologise as the IMC Code of Practice demands.

Most media houses take the IMC for granted and some even refer to the institution as a toothless bulldog. Not this present IMC ladies and gentlemen, colleagues. With such a calibre of commissioners and staff we are poised to bite wherever and whenever we need to legally bite. Let there be no surprises that very soon we will begin to use the full force of the mandate given to us against those media houses who continue to defy our authority. We have done all we could as required by IMC Act 2000 and amended 2006 2007 without getting cooperation from most of the media houses. Some I must say are compliant and respectful.

Ladies and gentlemen, our mandate is not only to investigate complaints and impose fines or not. Our policy objective is also to critically examine the state of the Sierra Leone press and its role in the society, the challenges that confront it and improvement that may be required for the effective performance of its responsibilities. In other words the IMC should be impacting professional skills through training workshops for journalists both print and electronics.

In fulfilment of that policy objective, the IMC has embarked on training workshops for both in-house staff and the media generally. On Monday May 6, for example we conducted an in-house workshop with our staff from all over the country at our headquarters here in Freetown with the theme: Management Tips for Effective Administration of Media Houses. The seminar brought together for the first time IMC staff from all over the country to discuss our strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). It was a moment of free-for-all expression of individual staff’s feeling about the institution, condition of service, hopes and aspirations.

Subsequently the IMC on Friday May 10, 2019 held  a one-day seminar for editors and radio/TV station managers at this same venue with the theme: Managing the Media Effectively and Professionally. Talks such as the Media Code of Practice, Auto-regulation in the media, the IMC Annual Media Award and Frank Talk and Exchanges between IMC and journalists formed the basis of the training workshop. Presentations were made by IMC’s information and communication experts with full participation of journalists in attendance.

For your information Ladies and Gentlemen, beginning Monday May 20, 2019, this training workshop for Radio/TV station managers and newspaper editors will be rolled out in the provinces – Makeni, Bo and Kenema. Through this training exercise and many more to come, we hope to get the best out of media practitioners all over the country.

Our confidence in a sustained professional and technical relationship between the MRCG and the IMC is anchored on the premise that the Chairman of the former is also a commissioner of the IMC and who happens to be Prof. Dr. Francis Sowa. He is a man of great experience and knowledge and a perfect connecting strand between our twin institutions.

I wish you fruitful deliberations. Thank you.

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