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New broadcasting law gives president control over state media

(MFWA/IFEX) - The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) has expressed concern about a new Broadcasting Act passed by the country's legislature on August 6, 2009, giving the president unilateral powers to solely appoint the Director General and the Deputy Director General of the state-owned Broadcasting Corporation.

This new Act seeks to merge Sierra Leone Broadcasting Services with the United Nations Radio set up by the world body during the civil war. The two stations would operate under the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Services Corporation Act 2009.

Speaking in an interview, the President of SLAJ, Umaru Fofana, told the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)'s correspondent that the powers given to the president would not only entrench executive control over the state-owned media, but also undermine the interests of SLAJ members working with the two stations.

According to Fofana, contrary to claims by the minister of information that all stakeholders were consulted, SLAJ, an important stakeholder, was sidelined during the consultative meetings. "We should be seen to be making an input", he emphasized.

President Ernest Bai Koroma is expected to assent to the bill within twenty-one days.

MFWA adds its voice to that of SLAJ in calling on President Koroma not to assent to the bill but to conduct a proper consultation by incorporating the views of all stakeholders to ensure that the station truly reflects its public service character and be accountable to the state and people of Sierra Leone.

MFWA encourages SLAJ and other civil society organizations to join forces and ensure that President Koroma does not assent to the bill.

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