The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray has officially launched the Print and Electronic Regulation 2022 and IMC Elections Coverage and Reporting Regulations at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown on the 27th March 2023.

In a bid to ensure this, the two Documents were designed and produced by the Independent Media Commission (IMC), with support from the European Union and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA)

The regulations seeks to not only ensure fair coverage and reporting of events before, during, and after the June 24th General Elections but to ensure media houses give fair airtime/space to all players involved in the June election, ensure media practitioners provide accurate reporting and maintain ethical conduct during and after the June General Elections.

It also seeks to provide space for complaints and penalties in an event media houses default.

The Minister of Information and Communications Mr. Mohamed Rahman Swaray, in his keynote address, called for responsible journalism. He espoused that, the Government of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio is committed to expanding the media space but cautioned that this should not be used as an excuse to promote reckless journalism.

“The media is not a platform to promote tribal and divisive messages, IMC and SLAJ must ensure a conducive media environment that promotes cohesion and factual dissemination of information to the public” , the minister said.

Dr. Victor Massaquoi, Chairman of IMC, said these regulations were done extensively in collaboration with partners in the media ecosystem and announced that the popularization of the Regulations will soon commence.

In his remarks, the President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, welcomed the implementation of the Regulations, saying it would ensure fair and transparent reporting during the June Elections. He commended the Government of President Dr. Julius Maada Bio for creating the enabling environment and ensuring the media thrives.

“Nobody will hide behind freedom of press or freedom of speech; we must ensure we report fact and accurate information. SLAJ will continue to protect the work of all journalists and support them in their work”. Mr. Nasralla assured.

Similar calls for institutional independence, fair, transparent and responsible reporting during the General Elections were made by representatives of NEW, IRN, ECSL and Guild of Editors in their statements.

Section 5 of the Regulations provides that a media practitioner or media institution shall refrain from publishing or broadcasting any matter with the potential to incite hatred or cause public disorder.

They must also refrain from ridiculing or demonising people based on gender, race, class, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, and physical or mental ability. Additionally, they must maintain professional independence free of control and direction from government, political opposition, political parties registered to contest the elections, or any individual, group, or organisation representing or promoting the special interests of a political party.

Section 12 states that media practitioners or institutions must distinguish between the activities of the Government and those of the ruling political party and individual candidates. They must also ensure that the incumbent does not gain unfair access to the media.

While these regulations look excellent on paper, the proof of the pudding is always in the implementation. We sincerely hope the IMC Complaint Committee, which is tasked with enforcement powers, will be fair and objective. Let’s work together to ensure a free and fair elections in June 2023.