In Sierra Leone, the challenge of obtaining accurate information from government officials for clarification and confirmation is a persistent issue, hindering the public’s access to clear and comprehensible insights into complex matters. Secrecy often prevails, and journalists seeking to shed light on affairs that may not seem entirely transparent encounter resistance from those who believe their affairs should remain private.

One government official who has occasionally been reluctant to provide essential information for clarification is the current Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah. His unwillingness to offer clarifications plays a role in the dissemination of fake news, a related issue that can have detrimental effects on individuals, communities, and society as a whole.

It’s essential to recognize that when reliable sources remain silent, individuals may turn to unreliable or unverified outlets for information, which can result in the spread of misinformation or disinformation, impairing people’s ability to make informed decisions about critical matters.

This reluctance or intentional withholding of information, which could assist journalists in crafting well-rounded stories, was increasingly becoming the norm for government officials.

Recently, a notice began circulating on social media, raising concerns among Sierra Leoneans regarding a purported tax hike related to outbound travel from the country.

The notice, titled “Tax Review for Travelex-Sierra Leone,” implies that the Sierra Leonean government has issued a directive to raise taxes by One Hundred and Sixty-Five Dollars (USD165.00) for all outbound travel from Sierra Leone. According to the notice, this tax increase is scheduled to take effect on December 1st, 2023.

In response to these claims, a journalist, Foday Moriba Conteh, attempted to reach out to government officials for clarification. Both the Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah, and the Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), Ibrahim Brima Swaray, were contacted for comments. Regrettably, all efforts to obtain a response from these officials proved futile, as they purportedly declined to comment despite numerous messages and phone calls.

Due to their reluctance to provide clarification on the matter, the news continued to spread that the government had issued a directive to raise taxes by One Hundred and Sixty-Five Dollars (USD165.00) for all outbound travel from Sierra Leone.

After a week of widespread dissemination of this information, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation finally issued a statement on Monday, October 9, 2023, denouncing the claims as entirely false and baseless. They clarified that the circulating news article alleging a significant tax increase of USD $165 for departing passengers from Sierra Leone starting from December 1, 2023, is fake.

This incident exemplifies the adverse consequences of government officials’ actions when they occasionally fail to provide information for clarification and confirmation on contentious claims.

It underscores the importance of transparent communication between the government and the public to combat the proliferation of fake news and ensure the dissemination of accurate and reliable information.