Statement by SLAJ President, Kelvin Lewis, at the Annual General Meeting 2018 in Kenema City:

We believe that our role must be to hold the government to account, and we must do this dispassionately without bias, and with the motive that it is for the good of the country.

Salutations

All other protocols observed, good morning all.

For the second time in my Presidency we are being welcomed in the city of Kenema. For most SLAJ members, Kenema is a city of memories. We have had some very good times here and we have also had some very frosty SLAJ meetings and elections here.

However Mr Chairman as we recall the sweet memories we also remember those who left us this year. We recall the tragic accident which took the life of the Honourable Frank Kposowa, and in similar fashion S.U Thoronka of Global Times. In equally tragic circumstances we remember Ibrahim Samura of the New Age newspaper and Sorie Sudan Sesay, minister plenipotentiary in our London High Commission.We also very sadly mourn the loss of one of our greatest mentors, Pious Foray.

Mr Chairman permit me to request that we all stand and observe a minute’s silence in respect of these our fallen comrades.

Mr Chairman just last month SLAJ celebrated its 47th birthday. Sadly all of these 47 years and 6 more years have been spent fighting against the most repressive legislation against the practice of journalism and the existence of free expression in a political system which successive governments have characterised as democratic.

The last administration promised us for ten years that they will repeal and later said they will review the criminal and seditious libel laws. That was a promised unfilled, a demand unmet, and a manifesto commitment undelivered. Today we are again on the brink of concluding discussions on the repeal of the criminal and seditious libel laws. We can only hope that this time around it becomes a promise fulfilled.

Mr Chairman we have just come out of a tensely fought election. It is therefore imperative that we refocus our energies in making our professional contributions to the furtherance of a peaceful and prosperous Sierra Leone.This is why we have chosen the theme “Post Elections 2018: the media’s role in enhancing democracy in Sierra Leone”.

Mr Chairman we in SLAJ believe that even though our role as media practitioners is normally seen as controversial yet we must be positive in our criticism and we must above all be patriotic.

We believe that our role must be to hold the government to account, and we must do this dispassionately without bias, and with the motive that it is for the good of the country.

The media must also be peace makers. We must endeavour to bring feuding parties together and not be involved in fostering conflict even though we thrive more during conflict situations. In essence the media must not be seen to be pouring fuel into the fire but pouring water so that the fire will be extinguished.

We also believe that the media must contribute to development by bringing out the innovative ideas and inventions of the people. The media must show ways in which agriculture will thrive, new ways in which businesses can be conducted and be more profitable, and also support the promotion of a clean and healthy environment as well as contemporary conservation methods to ensure that we take care of our planet in a sustainable way such that our children will inherit a more conducive living environment.

Mr Chairman this should however not compromise our critical stance. The media must continue to speak truth to power however dangerous that would. We must continue to investigate and dig out the wrong doings in our community and above all fight corruption with every fibre in our systems.

Lastly Mr Chairman the media must set the agenda for national discourse. It is our duty to assemble the people in our different radio and TV stations much like the Greeks did in the early city states so that we can discuss ideas and innovations. It is our duty to discuss the policy initiatives of the government and ensuring the New Direction points in the right direction and take us down the right road to prosperity for all.

I thank you all for your attention.

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Categories: Sierra Leone

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