|PRESIDENT KOROMA EXPLAINS SLBC TRANSFORMATION, VISITS STUDIOS|
ImagePresident Ernest Bai Koroma has told Commissioners of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) that he had always believed in the transformation of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) from a state-owned broadcaster to a public corporation even before attaining governance. He recalled that as an opposition leader, he had called on Parliament to facilitate the transformation, in lieu of what he was going through in terms of having equal access to the then SLBS. "For us to get to this point, it involved a lot of commitment and hard work," he noted.
The President was addressing the Chairperson and Commissioners of the IMC, accompanied by the Minister of Information and Communications, I. B. Kargbo, when they paid a courtesy call on him at State House today to inform him of their desire to embark on a nation-wide sensitization on the newly formed Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).
According to the President, his government would keep in line with international standards with regards democratic practice. He noted that since he became head of State, his government has made remarkable differences and that they will hand over the SLBC with pride and in a good first-class condition with up-to-date equipment. "We have created the enabling legislation, provided modern facilities, and have made a great difference even in the programmes....We are not going to hand over a weak institution... and over and above that , to ensure no iota of doubt is left about our sincerity, we appointed somebody who is clearly in the opposition to head the institution."
President Koroma noted that "that's so far we can go as a government. It is now your responsibility to monitor and ensure that a level playing field is created," calling on the IMC to ensure that professional standards are adhered to, access to information is granted to all, and the aspect of dissemination of the right information for the development of the country is upheld. He urged them to take prompt and timely action in bringing to book any defaulter. He said government has the right to maintain law and order and that all media practioners should adhere to the IMC code of ethics. He praised the commission for embarking on the sensitization exercise, which, he observed, will bring glory and make the State attractive for business and employment. "When we succeed, it is Sierra Leone that has succeeded; it is Sierra Leone that will be judged as a country moving forward in democratic practice."
In his statement earlier, the Minister of Information and Communication, I.B. Kargbo, said "as part of the completion of the conversion of the SLBS into a corporation, the IMC has volunteered to sensitize and educate the general public on the use of a public broadcaster, in utilizing it and not abusing it," noting that they had invited the Director General of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, William Dako, to share the Ghanaian experience with Sierra Leone, as Ghana went through the same process.
In her remarks, the Chairperson of the Commission, Mrs. Bernadette Cole, said "the IMC is keen to ensure that the SLBC begins on an even keel. Since tradition dies hard, it's time to tell the people about the position of the SLBC, that it's no more government-controlled." She thanked President Koroma for taking the bold step of "giving up your sovereignty over the SLBS," adding that "it is a feather to your cap" , while praising him for his magnanimity in appointing a member of the opposition, Prof. Septimus Kai Kai, to head the new corporation.
Commissioner Isaac Massaquoi gave the vote of thanks, in which he noted that since he became a member of the IMC at about the same time President Koroma was assuming office, "there has been no political interference, there has been no pressure either from State House or from the Ministry of Information," while he promised that they would effectively monitor the whole process.
Meanwhile, immediately after the IMC visit, President Koroma paid a surprise visit to the New England studios of the new SLBC, where he was taken on a conducted tour of the new facilities provided by government. He was interviewed live on radio and television in which he underlined government's commitment to wholly surrender the management and control of the SLBC.
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