The Minister of Information and Communications Mr Mohamed Rahman Swaray has disclosed that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Dr. Julius Maada Bio has consented to grace the upcoming National Media Investment Conference in Freetown, which will be held at the Bintumani Conference Hall on the 21st-22nd April 2022.
The Minister made this disclosure during the Government weekly press briefing held at the ministry’s conference room on Thursday 7th April 2022.
The Media Investment Conference was a commitment made by His Excellency the President during the time he was signing the repeal of part 5 of the Public Order Act of 1965. President Dr Julius Maada Bio promised to not only free journalists from the draconian seditious Libel law but to support a Media Investment Conference wherein, challenges facing the media and the opportunities can be explored. It was the President himself that declared that the Government will support the Investment Conference with a view to supporting enhanced Private sector investment in the media.
The minister opined that there are major factors that will continue to influence the press and the growth of the media in general, which include the democratization processes, civil society, technological innovations, improved economic conditions, peace, and stability. Nonetheless, the Minister emphasized that the government has shown commitment to taking important steps towards creating the right environment for a transformation in the sector.
“To ensure that the media can work properly in the interest of the public is not just about changing legislation, the media itself needs to have a solid economic foundation to be able to serve the people of this country, produce responsible content, inform educate and entertain our people” the Minister emphasized. In a time when most countries in Africa are gagging journalists and looking for ways and means to tighten the media space, President Bio is working assiduously to ensure the media is given the free space to operate.
“As a government we have increased subvention to 500 million to SLAJ, Repealed the Seditious Libel law, strengthened the IMC Act, signed up for the Global Media Coalition, all geared towards allowing journalists to do their work unhindered. This will be the first Media Investment Conference not only in Sierra Leone but West Africa” the Minister asserted.
In his conclusion, the Minister revealed that the Ministry of Information and Communications, through BBC media Action, has raised £50,000 for the forthcoming media conference. He also spoke about his aspirations to digitize the electronic media environment in Sierra Leone, which he said has received a boost following the recent visit of the Spokesman & Head of the Center for Public and Media Diplomacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Saied Khatibzadeh, who promised that the Iranian government is willing to give its support to completing the digitization process.
The National Coordinator of the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) Dr. Francis Sowa who is also the National Consultant and facilitator for the Media Investment Conference, commended President Bio for his political will in promoting the media in Sierra Leone, saying that President Bio promised them a Media Investment Conference and he has delivered.
“Through the regional consultations across the country we have catalogued all the concerns from the media houses and journalists. We know the Media in Sierra Leone is quite challenged and the objective of the conference is to attract investment in the media sector” he said.
He concluded on a positive note, saying that the national consultations that have been carried out across the country in the last few weeks would help inform the dialogue, which will shape a roadmap for meaning investment into the Media in Sierra Leone.