By Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu :
One of the most revealing and educative articles I have read recently came from the science website called : UNDERSTANDING SCIENCE : HOW SCIENCE WORKS. The article in question is titled : “Beware of False Balance : Are the views of the scientific community acurately portrayed ?” The thesis of the writer is couched in few but very instructive words . He writes : “Balanced reporting is generally considered good journalism, and balance does have its virtues. The public should be able to get information on all sides of an issue — but that doesn’t mean that all sides of the issue deserve equal weight. Science works by carefully examining the evidence supporting different hypotheses and building on those that have the most support. Journalism and policies that falsely grant all viewpoints the same scientific legitimacy effectively undo one of the main aims of science: to weigh the evidence. ”
Even those who have studied Mass Communications , whether as students in a college or privately, know that it is an established fact in Journalism that will always challenge the claims of those journalists who beat their chests that they are objective.
There is nothing like objective journalism just like there is nothing like objective History. Objective journalism is like beauty. It is in the eyes of the beholder. It depends on where you stand. Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ) supporters will never accept the characterization of their journalists like Sheku Kallon, Kelphala Kallon, Yusuf Kekehtorma, George Khoryama , Dr. Sama Banya, Kalilu Totangi and others as the most biased, one-sided, blind, unpatriotic and unprincipled journalists that ever lived . Many Sierra Leoneans have no respect for these people because they consider them partisan journalists who are promoting the cause of a presidential candidate who has terrible human rights and criminal records that include extrajudicial killings, spousal abuse, racketeering in his country’s passports and helicopter parts and outright thieving . You have to be somebody without conscience to support Maada Bio. Yet these men are held in high esteem by their party supporters who regard them as objective journalists , because they promote the views of the SLPP, a party that does not care about good virtues in their leaders. It is therefore astounding that these same SLPP zealots characterize journalists promoting the achievements of President Ernest Bai Koroma as sycophants , praise-singers and bootlickers. Nothing could be more ironic and ridiculous . How can you glory in supporting a killer for power, but you frown at somebody promoting a very good President, especially when you consider that out of 54 African nations, President Koroma is the 12th best leader in all of the continent ? Who is doing the more noble job–the journalists supporting a confessed killer or those promoting the works of an outstanding leader enjoying the respect of majority of his people and the international community ? He was 9th two years ago. What makes his supporters sycophants or praise-singers when what they are saying about him is the truth that even international observers and stakeholders, who have nothing to gain, have been amplifying as well ? Any journalist who loves quality governance and productive presidency will support EBK over the alternatives out there , like Solomon Berewa or Maada Bio. It is an insult to EBK to place him on the same pedestal with these men , who have been part of governance before but left with very dishonorable records.
I distinctly remember that one of the first lessons my History Professor at Fourah Bay College, Dr. Peterson, taught my class was that History is not objective. History is the narration and interpretation of facts. It is the same with journalism. It is the reporting and interpretation of facts. Narration, reporting and interpretation of facts will always be influenced by the writer’s beliefs , prejudices , leanings and emotions. In his discourse on the topic of objectivity and subjectivity of History, a scholar held that ”Although the objectivity of some historical truths is indisputable, one must realise that most truths in history are influenced by the historian’s biases, limitations and his subjection to external influences. In other words, subjective elements (as mentioned above) undermine the objective interpretations of historical events. ” ( http://www.oppapers.com/essays/Objectivity-Subjectivity-History/100335). Based on the definitions above, it is very difficult for newspapers in Sierra Leone to claim objectivity. Some of them like Awoko and Concord Times try hard not to be caught in the affray but some of their articles show manifest bias against the present government. The views and interpretation of facts in the articles are skewed against the APC Government and no effort is made to present the government’s side of the story . A typical example was the recent Awoko article on Njala students crying out against bad roads. Was any effort made to interview the Minister of Works ? Did the paper mention that though the roads in Njala may be bad, the government has done a great job with road construction in the country ? If he had been interviewed, the Works Minister would have had the opportunity to explain that the government plans to fix the Njala roads next. However, who am I to tell them what to do ? I have my own biases and prejudices, though I am convinced that I am supporting a far better leader in the person of President Ernest Bai Koroma.
My sincere belief is that pro-Ernest Koroma journalists should walk with their heads held high and with pride and dignity . They must not be bothered by the clamour of the naysayers who accuse them of being sycophants. Until somebody provides a President of Sierra Leone who has done better than Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, pro-government journalists should go about their business with pride.
People should realize that whatever we journalists are writing today is not only for the benefit of our generation but for posterity. Given this fact, , the good journalist will create safety nets for himself by always making it his duty to support good causes and good Presidents in his society because he knows that the end will always justify the means. Posterity will decide whether they erred on the side of good judgement or not. When some of us were at FBC writing and vigorously supporting radical students union presidents like Boubaccar Njai-Bah and Hindolo Trye , those who did not support these two gentlemen called us sycophants because they supported candidates with no proven record of ability to deliver . Today, when the hstory of students union politics is reviewed and it is agreed that whatever their failings both men contributed to the restoration of students rights and dignity on campus and the improvement of the living conditions and quality of life of students on campus until “things later chakra “( As the Liberian would say ), the journalists who supported these men share in their glory.
Nobody will ever say that a government or a President is perfect. No human being or human institution is ever perfect. Therefore , President Koroma and the All People’s Congress ( APC ) Government are not perfect. HOWEVER, when you look at the post-Independence history of the country, you cannot name any President of Sierra Leone who has done half as much as President Koroma in terms of socio-economic and political development . Whatever weaknesses the government manifests, its achievements far surpass its failings.
President Koroma has been in power for only 5 years but the roll call of socio-economic and political achievements under this President has been amazing. You cetainly get the feeling that if all the other Presidents and heads of state had done the same things that President Koroma is engaged in –Constructing good roads and quality infrastructure; boosting education, agriculture , the justice system and health care; ensuring the flow of electricity and water supply, completing abandoned projects like the Bumbuna Hydroelectricity Dam etc. etc–during their rule, Sierra Leone would have been the most developed nation in Africa. We all have our biases, prejudices and beliefs but President Koroma’s achievements are too tangible and visible to every eye for anybody to miss . Apart from the infrastructural developments and the progress in health care and agriculture, look at the press freedom , freedom of speech and the active participation of civil society and women’s groups in national development. Whenever I receive my supply of Sierra Leone newspapers, I feel proud to be a Sierra Leonean. Many of the newspapers fabricate evidence, make up quotes, create hypothetical individuals to stress certain parts of their stories, and provide misleading photographs to make their points but they are not subject to any arrests or harassment by government. The practice of Journalism is free in Sierra Leone. Look also at the President’s exceptional human rights records. For five years, we have had no political prisoners or political executions for the first time in the history of the country. Therefore , on a balance of probabilities, who will err to support such a President ? Supporting President Koroma is the right cause for any journalist who wants his name indelibly inscribed in the annals of the country. With such achievements for the President to showcase, it is the right thing to support him.
When I read the diatribes of my detractors in anonymous forums , I feel sorry for them . I do not get angry with them .I only repeat Jesus Christ’s prayer for his detractors : “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Posterity will judge us and prove who was rightly supporting the right candidate. When the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon , the British DFID Minister , delegations from the UN Peacebuilding Commission ( PBC ) , the UN Security Council and now the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dirk Niebel visited Sierra Leone, they all said the same things that we have been writing–That President Koroma is doing a marvelous job. Whenever there is an international conference on Sierra Leone at the UN, the amount of praises and commendation directed at the President are just unbelievable. I always leave the UN with feelings of exoneration.
My conclusion is that great journalists who love their country will support the great Presidents because of what they are accomplishing for their nation and they will never be proved wrong by posterity. Of course, history will also record the mistakes of the good Presidents but when the totality of their rule is considered, the excellent work they have done for their country will outweigh their mistakes and this will bring credit also to journalists who supported them. When South Africa was under Apatheid, journalists who supported the African National Congress ( ANC ) and Nelson Mandela were demonized and called terorists.They were brutalized, jailed or killed but today after South Africa has regained freedom, these journalists are heroes. It was only after Jesus Christ got resurrected from the dead and was taken up the sky back to Heaven, proving that all he had been saying were the truth, that his disciples came out of hiding and started preaching the gospel throughout the length and breadth of the world. Even some of them were unconvinced about the rightness and justice of their support for him because of what the scribes, sadducees and the pharisees were saying about him.
Good journalists always support good causes and good presidents and the those institutions around them that appreciate the virtues of the goodness and the rightness of causes will record their work and posterity will provide the sweetly-savoured rewards of their diligent work.
At least, when I die, my children and grandchildren will have President Koroma’s achievements to show to their friend and associates , achievements that were jointly propagated by a father and grandfather, and many journalists, who decided to support the right cause by supporting the best President their motherland had ever produced. On the flip side, those supporting a confessed killer , rogue and swindler will be repaid with derision and shame by posterity.
READ PART 2 NEXT WEEK