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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Sierra Leone's Ruling Party Sponsored Media sets Low Standards for President
By Abdul Rashid Thomas, Leeds, UK
Apr 9, 2009, 21:05
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APC Propaganda Media Sets Low Standards with which They Measure President Koromas Government Performance: Is this Sycophancy or Blind Loyalty?

There have been many reports in the Sierra Leone Newspapers recently describing the APC sponsored news media as sycophants. But the real question being asked is how fair those comments are. Should the APC news media not be expected to extol the virtues of their President and shout about their achievements from the mountain top?

 

No one will doubt nor challenge the role and legitimacy of the APC governments sponsored news media, in ensuring that the achievements of the government are brought to the notice of the people of Sierra Leone in particular and the international community in general. But what is neither acceptable, nor professional is the unbridled peddling of mediocrity, shrouded as success stories.

 

As Sama Banya recently remarked; If President Ernest Bai Koroma and his government continue to depend on the flattery and insincere outpouring from the editors of the new citizen, We Yone, the African champion newspapers, not to mention the on-line Cocorioko, then he is likely to see this country slip under his eyes into a pariah state.  Worst of all, what I do fear, is that the country will slip once again into that unflattering category of failed states from whence we have come, perpetually languishing at the bottom of the Human Development Index.  

 

It is an irony that the President himself acknowledged the importance of objective and honest media reporting, when he mentioned in a speech on the 26 March 2009, that; The media has a key role showcasing and celebrating grassroots entrepreneurial talent and yes, taking government to task when the red tape, bureaucracy, and corruption stifle entrepreneurial effort.  

 

The President can be rest assured that the independent and non-APC sponsored media will most certainly take his government to task whenever red tape, bureaucracy and corruption raise their ugly heads to stifle economic progress, and pervert civil liberty and justice in Sierra Leone. Equally, the non-APC media will acknowledge and report on the successes of the government, and give praise where and when it is due.  In doing so they will, at all times, reserve and maintain their constitutional right to relentlessly criticise and pursue the truth from whence it originates and leads.

 

By throwing neo-communist invectives and abuse at non-APC news media editors, gives credence to the accusation of sycophancy, and exposes the immaturity and unprofessionalism of those media houses. Furthermore, by referring to government critics as; detractors, dissidents, enemies of the state, propagandists, rabble-rousers, troublemakers, etc, is to insult the intelligence of their readers who ought to be presented with the facts and objective analysis, so as to draw their own conclusions.  

 

This style of reporting based on the need to assuage President Koroma, will not engender peace in Sierra Leone, but will only continue to breed discord and further fragment an already fractured society.  

 

So, we today call upon the APC sponsored news media and others to join us in endorsing a set of standards or key success criteria with which we can measure, report and indeed celebrate those government achievements, if and when they do occur.  To this end, I would like to propose that the performance of this APC government be assessed and reported upon, using the following key performance or success criteria:

 

  1. The total number of new jobs created.

  1. The total number of existing jobs safeguarded.

  1. The percentage reduction in maternal and childhood mortality.

  1. The number of new private businesses established.

  1. The number of children in general and girls in particular that entered and completed primary and secondary education.

  1. The number of new roads constructed and existing roads rehabilitated.

  1. The net value of all Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) that flowed into the country.

This approach will most certainly go a long way to marketing Sierra Leone as a progressive nation to foreign investors and donors.

 

It is absolutely mind boggling to think that the performance of the APC is currently being judged by the number of public relations meetings they have with international stakeholders in Kono or other parts of the country, or the number of Jobs Fair event the government attends in the USA. Shockingly, Cocorioko reported these stories as: The International Donor Conference in Kono on Wednesday and the Diaspora Initiative /NAACP Job Fair in Philadelphia on the same day were positive events that pointed to a major breakthrough for President Koroma's government in its brilliant efforts to bring socio-economic and political renaissance to the Sierra Leonean people.  

 

What breakthrough? Are those the kinds of achievements that we should be celebrating?  Being invited to take up an exhibition stand at the NAACP Jobs Fair in Philadelphia surely, to any intelligent citizen of Sierra Leone cannot and will not be regarded as brilliant efforts to bring socio-economic and political renaissance to the Sierra Leonean people.  The people of Sierra Leone would rather see the pages of the APC media covered with stories of real achievements leading to economic prosperity for all. 

 

I am not by any means denigrating those who attend these events. My contention is that the events themselves are being glorified as major achievement and success, to give President Koroma the impression that his governments performance is excellent.  We must rise above mediocrity.  And it matters not which party is in power. Let us give to Caesar what is due to Caesar.

 

These activities do not put bread on the tables of ordinary Sierra Leoneans, nor stem the high incidence of maternal and child mortality, just as the bizarre commissioning of a clock tower amidst much pomp and jubilation, which culminated in violence and human rights abuses will not look pretty in the GOVERNMENTS PERFORMANCE REPORT CARD, come 2012.        

 

Incidentally, how much did it cost the Sierra Leonean tax payer to send the entire Staff of the governments Diaspora Project to attend this event in the USA?

 

What was the actual return on that investment? In other words, how many qualified and experienced essential specialists did they sign up to come over to Sierra Leone with their much needed expertise?

 

So let us assume that they did sign up some expatriates or diasporans, would it not have been far more cost effective and transparent for the government to have advertised ALL SUCH PUBLIC SECTOR VACANCIES needed to be filled?

 

The people of Sierra Leone really do not care if they had done that, and the government chose to recruit their own APC supporters to fill those job vacancies. What the people first and foremost do care about is that those recruited are the most qualified and experienced to discharge the job specifications.

 

But to insult the intelligence of ordinary Sierra Leoneans with self praise, and the pursuit of self serving ventures that yield zero economic return, will only add to the woes of the APC government. And sadly, we do know of course what happens when they become exasperated for not achieving their own goals and objectives. They lash out with impunity and claim that the opposition is stopping them from delivering by not acknowledging the legitimacy of President Koromas government. 

 

We all agree with the APC news media that; Before he won the elections that brought him to power, President Koroma had promised the Sierra Leonean people that he would redeem them from their economic, social and political problems.  But, if we are to believe that; The President has pursued his promise to the nation relentlessly,   will someone in the government please outline the results of those relentless pursuits, by filling the governments Performance Report Card using the key performance criteria outlined above? It might just be too late leaving it till 2012.

 

And what are we to make of statements such; This week, signs have emerged that President Koroma's efforts are beginning to bear good fruits; (Courtesy of Cocorioko News).  What fruits? And where are those fruits? To reiterate the point made earlier, this APC government has a mammoth task at hand and must go about delivering that task with HONOUR, DISCIPLINE, MATURITY, and PROFESSIONALISM. There are no green shoots currently to be seen in the country. And with the global economic downturn, what cause for optimism, from a government that continues to fail to tackle the real economic issues facing the country?  

 

There is just no need for such schizophrenic, paranoid and abusive behaviour from the government sponsored media, regarding the presence and role of the opposition. The opposition will remain steadfast in opposing the government when it fails to meet its own targets and standards, and the expectations of the people.  It is called democracy. This positive and constructive engagement will continue to be pursued by the opposition without resorting to violence, anarchy, or any ultra-parliamentary act in order to gain power.   

 

No Mickey mouse, bogus claims or political intimidation will be accepted by the people this time. Those days are now long gone, when politicians and their propaganda machine insulted and abused the intelligence of the people, or use intimidation and terror tactics to pursue a one-party state political agenda in Sierra Leone.

 

The people of Sierra Leone now hope that with the recent signing of the Peace Declaration between the APC government and the opposition SLPP, brokered by the UN, the government can begin to take the process of legitimate governance very seriously, as it wrestles with the problems of rising unemployment, poor health service provision, labour market skills development, and poor infrastructure in the country. We eagerly await the publication of the governments performance report card. But will the APC media rise up to the task of holding their party leaders to account?

 

I have no doubt that the wish of every Sierra Leonean including the APC supporters, is to ensure that Sierra Leone emerge from the depths of poverty and depravity, to join the rest of the world in that march towards twenty-first century civilization.

 

We are not talking here about the audacity of hope, because there is nothing audacious about being hopeful. HOPE is what keeps us alive.  The people of Sierra Leone expect much from the government and the opposition, to fulfil their dream of a prosperous Sierra Leone that is at ease with itself. So let us go to work. PLAY FAIR, BE HONEST AND TRANSPARENT.


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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