The Mass Communication Students Association (MACOSA), in Collaboration with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), with sponsorship from the BBC World Trust Fund on Monday 3rd May 2010 celebrated the ‘Word Press Freedom Day’ with a symposium held on Fourah College campus in Freetown.
The ceremony attracted many important personalities, including lecturers, senior journalists and University students. SLAJ president, Mr. Umaru Fofana and the publisher of Awareness Times Newspaper, Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden capably acted as the two panelists for the event that was efficiently chaired by Mr. Gibril Mohamed Sesay, a close aide to President Koroma at State House.
In his statement, SLAJ President Umaru Fofana informed that though when practicing the profession some journalists sometimes impinge on people’s rights in society, but on the whole journalists are usually pace setters for development in the world. "In Sierra Leone for example, journalists contributed greatly to end the rebel war and bring the country to multi-party democracy," he went on.
"Politicians depend on journalists to reach the people and the people too rely on the press to pass information to the politicians," he said. He added that what a journalist writes today may be identified as bad reporting, but with the test of time the subject remains alive and people will sit down and accept the veracity of it.
President Fofana iterated that it was not necessary for the press to be too political as too much politicking would rather destroy the fabric of the society. "Politics should not be in journalism and you should not put journalism into politics," he reaffirmed. He said it was good for journalists to put the interest of the country first in their practices. "If someone can compare the work of journalists to that of lawyers, you may find out that lawyers only protect their clients while journalists protect everybody in the society," he continued.
On the issue relating to women, Mr. Fofana said they deserved concerns from everybody in society as very vulnerable people. He said it was therefore necessary to treat their issues with utmost importance.
He ended by emphasizing on the impact of corruption on our society. "Corruption has negatively impacted on our society for so long so it is our responsibility as journalists to stand firm in helping the authorities in correcting this age old anomaly."
In her statement, Sierra Leone’s only woman publisher, Dr. Sylvia Blyden informed the audience that she had passion for journalism since her primary school days up to secondary and university level. She categorized a series of ways in which one can use the press to raise issues to the fore that would otherwise not have been discussed and in the process, force positive development to happen. She also informed that her newspaper has always defended the cause of women as women were the most marginalized and vulnerable group in society.
She however disagreed with Umaru whom she called "my dear brother" by saying politics could not be divorced from journalism as she insisted that ‘man is a political animal and nothing done by humans, including journalism can be truly free of politics.’
Dr. Blyden denounced how bad press coverage in the fight against corruption had had its toll giving the instance of such bad practices that led to the untimely death of a well meaning woman in society. She on that note cautioned Mass Communication students and members of the press to be accurate and objective in reporting on corruption so as not to be so immediately abhorrent of anyone even remotely linked to corruption as that will eventually hinder the ACC’s work because after demonizing someone in the press and the person is proven not to afterall have a case to answer, it will undermine the ACC’s credibility and without credibility, she said, the ACC could not function.