CORNELIUS DEVEAUX MISSES THE POINT ON DAY ONE
We've now had time to digest the contents of this press release from the Ministry of Information, signed by our friend Cornelius Deveaux. We like his early enthusiasm but somehow we believe he is skating on thin ice. Attacking the international media is a very bad signal to the rest of the world about our place among democracies. No doubt about that. So in the spirit of our friendship and our common nationality, we make the following comments:
DEVEAUX - It has come to the attention of government that some media practitioners come into the country under the guise of carrying out professional journalistic activities without going through the proper channels.
POLITICO - Let's be clear from the outset that this is really not about the Deputy Minister. He signed the press release which definitely has the blessing of the Government of Sierra Leone. So while we will be addressing him directly in our humble response as Sierra Leoneans, we hope the government would get our take.
We don't believe there is any other way foreigners come into this country apart from going to our embassies and making the necessary visa application and paying fees prescribed by the government. If our consular staff allows people to make false declaration, then they should answer questions. Why not sack them or even question them using normal administrative channels instead of a press release like this.
Certainly, a news organisation like the BBC would be very careful about making false declarations just to land a Sierra Leonean visa. We mention the BBC because this release has been put out in the wake of a BBC team recently coming to this country and highlighting things we talk about everyday in this country.
DEVEAUX - These foreign media practitioners, aided by some Sierra Leoneans, go around filming and taking pictures of our slums and other unpleasant areas and end up not speaking to the appropriate authorities. At the end of the day they produce reports that paint a negative picture of the country, its people and government, at a time when all efforts are being made to rebrand the country.
POLITICO - Frankly, none of us likes to see Sierra Leone portrayed in a bad light in the international media. All of us are shamed by that. But we believe that the first action for the government to take is to do away with slums. Let’s get people out of all slums and give them a decent living. We have thousands of our brothers and sisters living in sub-human conditions all along the creeks of Freetown while the good and great live in mansions overlooking the city. Isn't that a legitimate target for journalistic inquiry?
Every serious journalist would want to know why the gap between rich and poor is so wide. And this things about journalists coming to interview politicians about issues like the cruelty of life in Freetown's many slums, we don't understand what the complaint is about. All people like Deveaux would do is to talk about his government doing something about that or blaming past governments even eight years after his government has been running the country. What difference would that really make to people like us who would watch that video?
In the Red Movement, we have a government that enjoys portraying other political organisations and people as demons in the media but they are super sensitive to even the slightest criticism of their record in office. Come on guys, this is the name of the game.
DEVEAUX - The Ministry of Information and Communication wishes it to be known to all foreign media practitioners, individuals or institutions inviting foreign media practitioners into Sierra Leone that accreditation must be obtained from the Ministry of Information and Communication.
POLITICO - We can't understand why the Ministry of Information is still trying to carry that Soviet style of regulating media output in an elaborate effort at image-making and propaganda. The job of accrediting journalists, like registering all media houses in Sierra Leone, is the job of the Independent Media Commission. Why is the real hectic job - registering and monitoring local media or accrediting these parachute journalists who come during a crisis?
We know how much money is paid to the ministry each time these guys land in Freetown. Let the ministry check their records because they cannot be suggesting in a press release that journalists are clandestinely coming into Freetown to do bad journalism when, in fact the same journalists pay accreditation money to the ministry. Check the records brother Deveaux. Check it now.
DEVEAUX - The Ministry of Information and Communication craves the indulgence of the general public, especially Sierra Leone Police, Immigration Department and Information officials of the ministry to be vigilant in the regard.
POLITICO - This paragraph sounds like this country is becoming some kind of West African North Korea. We are a democracy. It may be flawed in many respects, but let's continue to call ourselves a democracy. Just yesterday Deveaux was holding a pen in hand. Here we are today, reading a press release like this signed by him. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
DEVEAUX - Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information and Communication calls on all foreign media practitioners currently in the country to report to the Deputy Minister of Information and Communication within forty-eight hours on hearing this announcement.
POLITICO - Have they reported yet sir?
SHOULD ‘OKADAS’ COME BACK? NO. NO. NO.
Freetown looked a lot like Freetown on Monday when all commercial bike riders locally known as ‘Okadas’ stay off the streets. Many commuters were caught off guard but on the whole the situation went well. We believe that the Okada people are making backroom efforts aimed at face-saving so that they can return to work in prohibited areas. By the way, why didn't we see those 100 buses Logus bought in action this morning as a response from the authorities? Anyway, here's what we think should happen going forward.
1. The authorities must not relent. All Okadas must stay out of prohibited forever. They should not allow Okada boys to engage in any political blackmail. Those of us who support this action have more votes in hand than the Okada boys.
2. All political parties must support this action. It makes no sense for any of them to exploit this serious situation by pretending to be the patron saint of the Okadas. It will backfire.
3. IG Munu please put some lunch money in the hands of your traffic officers. They are definitely losing their booking fees. Some of them are also losing their daily bread because they own the Okadas. So supplementary budget please.
4. Let's also check the crime rate over the next few days to see if Okada-riding has any bearing on criminality in Freetown in particular.
5. We must also check the hospitals to see how things are going there. Particularly the emergency hospital. Okada accidents are too many to report these days.
(C) Politico 17/05/16