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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Ojukutu-Macauley thinking aloudÖ..Mischief-making guise as journalism
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Nov 28, 2012, 17:06
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I take no blame for the long silence. I have been very busy going through my political elementary classes, travelling around the country, enjoying the fake smiles, whispers and laughers and wet-handshakes; par-taking in evening drinking sessions and talking ďpoliticsĒ and on several occasions gone through sufferance or had to be foolishly polite; all in the name of getting to know and understand ďour local politicsĒ.¬†

 

These experiences have of course exposed the other side of human nature and remind me of Ralph Waldo Emersonís essays on ďFriendshipĒ; ďEvery man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds.Ē¬†¬†

 

Mind you, I am not complaining, it has been delightfully refreshing and fun especially when travelling up-country; and I have enjoyed every minute of it. And although it is sometimes very frustrating and one has to continuously work to be appreciated and trusted, it is unlike journalism. In politics, you are at the centre of things, either watching as others make things happened, or you make things happened. You change lives, you bring smiles to the faces of people, and you make people feel good about themselves and the future. And these are the reasons behind President Ernest Bai Koromaís recent election success at the polls.

 

The other day whilst having lunch with some friend of mind, a funny thing happened as we discussed the elections and the results. What began as a response to a question about journalism in Sierra Leone became an extraordinary discussion or should I venture to say a debate on the entire ďculture and ethics of journalism and political tolerance in Sierra Leone.¬†

 

It was really hot outside, so I was looking forward to a quiet and peaceful one hour of enjoying my cassava leaves cooked with oil and fish, then go through the newspapers both local and foreign before heading back to the office. But this plan was quickly pushed aside as three old friends entered the restaurant just about the same time I was about to settled down for lunch.

 

ďGreat Ojukutu,Ē!!! one of them shouted.

 

ďOh my Worthy BrotherĒ I replied, as I extended my hand to the three of them. And that was the end of a quiet lunch.

 

ďSo when are the results coming out? The country is really tense. You guys need to work fastÖ.people are worried.Ē

 

ďBut I donít work for NEC.Ē I reminded them. ďI believe when the results are ready and Christiania Thorpe is satisfied that everything is in order she will talk to the people of Sierra Leone,Ē I tried to explained, as I ordered my Cassava leaves.¬†

 

Thinking that the next question or point of conversation would still be on politics, the gentleman on my right changed gear and pressed on. ďWhatís your position on the European Union Elections Observers statement that ďan unequal playing field was evident throughout the campaign periodĒ and that the ďSLBC showed biased coverage in favour of the ruling party,Ē the APC.

 

For a moment after the question, I wanted to ask them if they had followed me into the restaurant, to deliberately disturb my lunch. But I decided not to take that path but instead to answer the question, which I thought was a pertinent question even to someone like me with just over 20 years of experience in active journalism in Africa, Europe and short spell in Washington DC.

 

You see, it is because of the little I know about journalism that I decided early this year, to jump ship and swim in the deep waters of politics. I thought it was best to leave journalism to those who know better. And to seek greener pastures amongst the men and women of Abacha Street. Down at Abacha, no European Union observer is going to confused the peopleÖ..Abachians know the reality, they know the difference between a good and sincere leadership and a spooky and dodgy political leadership.¬† With that in mind, my cassava leaves arrived, and as I arranged my plate totally ignoring my table guests, I answered the question with an unmistakable delightful smile.¬†¬†¬†

 

ďThe European Union Election¬† observation Mission can be forgiven for their mischievous ignorance but those journalists who did not only failed to guide them, but went on to misinterpret the their observation deserved to be told that they have done a great disservice to Mother Sierra Leone,Ē You see, many, many of us are very familiar with the electoral structures in Europe and indeed, in the United StatesÖ and we too can pick holes in the conducts and management of elections in Europe and the United States. No elections are perfect anywhere in the world.

 

And to help my lunch partners understand what I was trying to say, I took the liberty of suggesting that sometimes the proximity to power seduced journalistsÖÖ. and politicians and other major decision makers conspires to make certain journalists feel important to a point where certain journalists begin to think that they are far more important than the politicians who actually make things happened. I have been there and I know it.¬† And it is that self-importance that has exposed certain journalists recently when handling the Press Statements and interviews given by the Foreign Elections Observation teams after last Saturdayís elections.

 

In fact let me take one step further to say, what we read in newspapers or hear on radio are not objectivity, despite the myth that we journalists like to portray. Most times we killed the story when we focus on appearing to be impartial by presenting two sides to every story and providing balance.

 

The late Sir Robin Day of the BBCís Question Time programme use to say; ďthis is wrong for two reasons: many stories are complex and have many, many viewpoints. Race relations are often boiled down to black and white, but that leaves out a lot of the population,Ē in the United Kingdom.

 

Some stories have NO valid other side. But in their desire to be seen as impartial (and independent) they present another. The objective reality is that President Ernest Bai Koroma is loved by the people of Sierra Leone, and he has something to show for his five years in power and people appreciate what he has done. End of story. It is our customs and tradition to give Paramount Chiefs money, whether it is election time or not. End of story. The Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) offered air-time for sale to all political parties; the APC took advantage of that, as other political parties do in Europe and in the United States. End of story. Sure, you can find any Tom, Dick or Sallay to present the ďother side.Ē But that is not informing the public. Itís entertainment at best, mischievous, and really harmful to democracy at worst.

 

END

 

Winston Ojukutu-Macauley Jrn © 2012


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

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