Members of the Guild of Editors, a subsidiary association of Newspaper Editors, affiliated with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), have on Thursday 10th August, 2023, met with the new Ministers of Information and Civic Education at the Ministry’s Youyi building office.
Welcoming the Editors, Deputy Minister of Information and Civic Education, Keketoma Sandi said, the reason why the meeting was requested was to create an opportunity to not only familiarize themselves with the members of the Association but to also learn about their challenges and aspirations, going forward.
In a short address to the Ministers, Chairman of the Guild of Editors, Theophilus Harding, stated that they are happy to visit the ministry and referred to the opportunity as a turning point in the relationship between the Association and the Ministry.
The Chairman of the Guild expressed happiness that the Guild has been recognized, adding that he hopes the recognition of their status would create an opportunity for them to be able to engage with the Ministry now formally on issues of rising cost of printing materials in the market, the domination of the market by Nigerian nationals, and undue delays of payments for adverts by Government institutions.
He also appealed to the Ministers to assist the Guild in acquiring an office space, citing that even though the Association recently received lots of materials for the Guide of Editors Secretariat from the EU, they have not been able to effectively use the opportunity. He expressed hope that with the intervention of the new Ministers, they can eliminate these challenges.
He praised the former Minister of Information and Communications, Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swaray, for the huge gains he made in ensuring Press freedom, especially with the repealing of the 1964 Public Order Act.
One of the female executive members of the Guild and Proprietor/Editor of Focus247 Newspaper, Madam Edwina Sia Janga, said that out of 40 newspapers publishers in Sierra Leone, only three women are Editors.
Another female Editor, Mabinty Kamara, Editor Politico Newspaper, also praised the former Minister, Mohamed Rado Swarray, for having an excellent relationship with journalists, adding that having Mr. Keketoma Sandi Esq. who she said also has a wealth of experience dealing with the Media, as Deputy Minister to Mr. Chernor Bah, is a welcome addition to the media landscape. She also lamented over the challenges journalists have been having with Ministries, Departments and Agencies, in relation to lack of cooperation for timely access to information and the failure to respond to enquiries made by the press. In her conclusion, she appealed to the Ministers to step up and salvage the situation.
Similar sentiments were expressed by other members present, including the Editor of Calabash Newspaper, Amir Kef, commonly known as Ranger and Lawrence Williams, Editor Fritong Post.
In response to all the concerns raised, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Abdulai Bah, opined that an expected outcome of the meeting would be to have a clear vision about how the Association fits within the media ecosystem so that it would inform actions that the Ministry of Information and Civic Education would take to ensure a holistic transformation of the sector.
“I am keen about how to make this landscape great because we want a long-term relationship with you guys and what we should do to maintain a win-win situation that will be of benefit to all of us and the general citizenry as a whole” he said, adding that the Ministry intends to use the print media as a very important platform for Civic Education and he is very keen about how they will use opportunities available to change the media landscape.
In a short statement, Deputy Minister of Information and Civic Education, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi Esq., said that the Ministry would leave no stone unturned to ensure they provide the space for the media to hold government to account, adding that one of the main objectives of the Ministry would be to protect Journalists, and condemn anybody that will wrongfully attack journalists.
He also promised that the advertisement payment policy will be reviewed, and urged the team to put something on paper that would help them evaluate these challenges that they have outlined so that the Ministry would start taking the appropriate actions.