The Sierra Leone Media and Civil society have been urged to be fully engaged with Government and share responsibilities for the development of the country.
President Ernest Bai Koroma made this appeal during discussions with the leaderships of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Veterans Journalists Union, Civil Society Organisations and the open Government Initiative, at State House in Freetown.
Stressing that this critical sector of governance has a vital role to play in the government machinery, the President expressed firm commitment to continue engaging them in the formulation and implementation of policies.
The rapid growth of the country’s economy as one of the ten fastest growing in the world, Preseident Koroma said, has motivated the Government to create structures and review relevant laws, to ensure that the gains achieved in the economy trickle down to the population, in terms of improved social services, infrastructure and improving the general status of the people.
He however admitted that the country still has some challenges like lawlessness, law and order, corruption and others which must be confronted and better resolved through active collaboration between vital sectors of state Governance.
“We should all have trust and confidence in each other and work together, in trust and confidence, for the good of the country, he said.
President Koroma therefore called on all Sierra Leoneans to be disciplined, work very hard and take advantage of the opportunities being created by the Agenda for Prosperity.
The Media and civil society representatives raised various issues and concerns on topical developments in the country, like access to information and its effective implementation and management, access to justice and its regulatory framework, the role of the police in law enforcement, the activities of political parties and the protection of Media practitioners.
The Government was requested to take immediate action to ensure that state institutions function in accordance with the law, so as to encourage positive perceptions by the people on key aspects of national life.
The State House meeting, also attended by Cabinet Ministers, Special Advisers to the President and the Chairman of the Independent Media Commission, was assured by President Koroma of its continuation to find solutions to critical and topical issues of state governance.
Earlier, the Minister of Information and Communications, Alhaji Alpha Kanu presented the seven-member Executive of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), led by its President, Mr. Kelvin Lewis to President Ernest Bai Koroma.
During frank and friendly discussions, the SLAJ President raised critical issues affecting the Media, including a review of the 1965 Public Order Act, Protection of Journalists, Government subvention to the professional Association and request for a land to construct a national secretariat and other facilities for Journalists,
The SLAJ President gave assurances for continued positive engagement and critical support to the Government and called for the fair and equal treatment of Journalists by law enforcement and other state institutions.
At the same time, President Koroma acknowledged the positive role of the media in national development and called on it to always be objective and protect state security and the rights of individuals and avoid pursuing hidden agendas.
The Government, he said, will continue to provide adequate space and support to Journalists, but cautioned that Journalists have a sacred responsibility to verify rumours and claims, as nobody is above the law.
He assured the SLAJ Executive of Government’s full commitment to reviewing the 1965 Public Order Act and implement the Access to Information law, especially because the country will derive a lot of benefits from enhanced media activities.
Journalists, he said, continue to be the Government’s valued partners, are not under any threat and will remain his friends.