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JC Blasts Salone newspapers

JC Blasts Salone newspapers

A Sierra Leone residing in the Diaspora on holidays to Sierra Leone has condemned in no uncertain terms the present manner in which the press is operating in the country. In a letter to the editor, Mr. Dominic Cole made known his complaints as to the present make-up of newspapers in the country and highlighted several matters which he saw as the bane of the problem affecting newspapers in the country.

While we may not be happy as a newspaper in Sierra Leone with the attack, we believe that there is a need, in the spirit of openness and fair play to give everyone a chance to make known his or her opinion on matters affecting the country.

Letter to The Editor

Tolla Thompson, Sierra Leonean Newspapers and the Truth

Dear Editor :

Kindly allow me to make some comments on the press in the country, especially the newspapers. After being out of the country for the past five years, I am surprised at the mediocre output of most newspapers here even though a School of Journalism has been established in the country’s prestigious University, Fourah Bay College.

When you open a newspaper nowadays, you will be surprised at the poor grammar, the awful syntaxes and the equally obnoxious manner in which issues are being handled. The first discrepancy I noticed is that newspapers in the country are shamelessly praising people after receiving money to publish even though it is not an advert. A clear example has been the manner in which some government ministers are being praised, clearly showing that money has passed, even though these ministers and government functionaries are square pegs in round holes. Thus if someone wants to have his or her image boosted in the newspapers, give them money. In the same manner, to tarnish the image of anyone, you just need to pass some cash to the editor and it will be in the papers the next day. This is a big disgrace to the image of a country once seen as the bastion of education.

There is also the manner in which some journalists use their newspapers for their own personal attacks on others. Take this example. A journalist goes to a judge and tries to have him change his or her judgment. The judge even though a friend of the journalist refuses. The result is to attack the judge in his or her newspaper and give him a bad reputation.

A case in point is the manner in which the esteemed Justice Tolla Thompson is being attacked by some newspapers. If you check at the bottom of the matter, you will realize that the newspapers are not writing about Justice Tolla Thompson because of national interest but for hidden and self agenda. If Justice Tolla Thompson were to hand out money to the journalists, or consent to their wants, I am certain he will receive accolades. I also want to make a comment on the role played by the Independent Media Commission. To be honest, the IMC has no viable function and is just another money wasting venture by the government. By all indications, the IMC should not only be sitting on the wall waiting complacently for complaints but should also be a watch dog, controlling the excesses of journalists who want to use their newspapers for personal attacks. The IMC should learn to stop these excesses before waiting till reports are made to them.

Some citizens prefer to keep silent rather than challenge the press because at the end of the day they do not want to make an enemy out of a newspaper owner whose style is to make baseless stories in an attempt to tarnish personalities. The IMC should therefore be robust in rooting out these unprofessional practices.

There is also the matter of the journalist association going to the courts to have a law changed. Here again, I believe that SLAJ should look for a lawyer who knows how to properly interpret the law. If SLAJ had had a well prepared and knowledgeable legal man or woman, the organization and the president should have been instructed that instead of going to the Chief Justice, or the president of the country, the real place to have gone was to Parliament. Even a High School pupil of government knows that the only thing that Parliament cannot do is to make a man into a woman or a woman into a man. Therefore, if any change in the Constitution should be achieved, it is Parliament that has the mandate and not the courts or any judge or chief justice. The law is implicit on this matter. The role of the courts, in other words the judiciary is to interpret these laws and not to change them.

Also, it is disappointing that although Sierra Leone has been a leader in the publication of newspapers, the radio stations which are relatively recently established have now made better inroads as they are not engaged in this negative reporting and character assassination for money.

The practice of hustler editors and journalist running newspapers in the country is also a matter of concern. Some newspapers in the country are only published when they have advertisement, with some ridiculous and baseless stories, most of whom are baseless on their front pages. This is a big disgrace to education in the country. The country also has proprietors going around blackmailing hard working people, including government officials in an effort to acquire money from them. All this is clearly shown in their headlines. If the one being blackmailed is ready to compromise, you see they are being praised in the next edition, but the readers are not fooled.

There is also the negative practice of newspaper proprietors, most of whom are neither trained journalists nor good writers interfering in the work and using their papers to attack others, as I earlier stated while hard working editors and journalists are forced to work under disgraceful conditions not seen any where in the world.

All this must be examined if the idea of attitudinal and behavioral change is to work because the media in any country is the mirror of that country. If that mirror is broken and distorted, the image of the country will equally be broken and fuzzy.

In conclusion, I believe not all is not hopeless as there are some newspaper men and women who continue to portray the spirit and will of the press as watch dogs and gad flies of society. These are the ones who should be commended for keeping sane heads in a sea of a miasma of a misguided media. I submit my case.

Dominic Cole, c/o Cockle Bay Guest House, Aberdeen Road, Freetown. 

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