In promoting freedom of expression and upholding professional journalism in Sierra Leone, President Dr. Julius Maada Bio engaged in a constructive dialogue with the Chairman and commissioners of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) on 26th October 2023.

The focus of this meeting revolved around the consequences of repealing Part Five of the 1965 Public Order Act, a legislation that had previously criminalized free speech and imposed limitations on journalism in the nation.

During the discussions, the media regulators updated President Bio on the overall progress within the media landscape. Notably, they revealed that since the repeal of the restrictive law, an impressive 90 percent of concerned members of the public now choose to approach the commission with their concerns regarding media and press, rather than resorting to legal action.

Dr. Victor Massaquoi, Chairman of the IMC, expressed his gratitude for President Bio’s decision to abolish the repressive law. He commended it as a significant milestone in Sierra Leone’s history, spanning over 60 years since gaining independence in 1961.

Chairman Massaquoi also emphasized the achievements of the commission over the past 20 months. These accomplishments include formulating a strategic direction that has enhanced the commission’s reputation, improved monitoring and research, and expanded the skills and capabilities of its staff. The removal of the anti-press law has further empowered the commission, leading to increased public trust and confidence in their ability to address media-related issues and complaints.

While acknowledging the challenges they face, Chairman Massaquoi pointed out positive developments, such as securing scholarships for staff members to pursue professional training abroad. He also called on President Bio to support the advancement of community radio stations, particularly in alignment with the government’s Big Five Gamechanger, with a specific emphasis on the FEED SALONE initiative.

In response, President Julius Maada Bio expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the IMC Chairman and Commissioners. He stressed that the Commission is directly accountable to his office and highlighted the importance of keeping him informed about their activities and operations.

President Bio stated that his first and second terms in office aim to remind Sierra Leoneans of the nation’s delayed development journey. He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to promoting cooperation among all sectors for the betterment of the country. He underscored the significance of broad-based development and job opportunities, particularly for the youth, through the FEED SALONE initiative to stimulate agriculture and economic growth.

The President encouraged the integration of the Big Five Gamechanger into the activities of the IMC, emphasizing the importance of obtaining better information for marketing the nation. He called on all citizens to participate in this endeavor, as accelerating development remains a top priority for the government.