(First published on April 5th 2011)
APRIL 5TH 2011: Last weekend I had dinner at Wilfred Sam-King’s Taia Hotel and I got chatting with both Sam-King and a renowned Sierra Leonean professor visiting home from Oxford University. The admiration of the Oxford Professor for the work Awareness Times is doing was palpable and he repeatedly expressed so. Like thousands of Sierra Leoneans around the world, the Oxford Professor confessed he could not consider his day completed without first logging on to Awareness Times. One thing I told these two fine gentlemen last weekend was that if I am able to legally but critically evaluate this APC-led regime of Ernest Bai Koroma inside my newspaper, it is because the President, like his predecessor Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, has proven to understand the importance of freedom of expression in a democracy; albeit a few unfortunate scenarios here and there.
|President Koroma has been benefitting from both criticisms & praises of Blyden’s pen
I could see the surprise on the Oxford Professor’s face when I recounted to him how an Awareness Times staff has been allowed to walk into State House every single weekday morning, from September 19th 2007 until now, to hand over a complimentary copy of each day’s Awareness Times newspaper to one of the Personal Staff of the President for the attention of the President; regardless of what is on the headline for that day.
I even recounted how President Koroma stopped, on his arrival one day, to chat with one of my staff doing the delivery of his Awareness Times newspaper. On that day, he allowed my staff to walk up the stairway of State House with him and whilst they were walking up, the President reportedly turned to my staff and, with his tongue in cheek, he asked of my staff what criticism of him was in Awareness Times for that day.Truth be told, first President Kabbah and now, President Koroma, have been giving a lot of meaning to what a democratic and tolerant African Leader represents.
Certain SLPP Flagbearer Aspirants will do well to learn from President Koroma’s attitude of tolerance to media criticisms. Can anyone imagine a Maada Bio Presidency allowing copies of Awareness Times, which are critical of Bio, to be delivered to State House?
Anyway, let’s move on. When I read yesterday’s indictment of the Police and Prisons in Koinadugu in a State House dispatch, I could not but applaud the President for being so honest as to allow the Presidency to be the one to state the serious social problems, as uncovered, so as to open up public discussions on them.
Bottomline, what I am trying to say today is that even though I do not like the sycophantic attitude of those, like the SLAJ President Umaru Fofana, who recently publicly thanked our Head of State for “not jailing journalists” as if ‘jailing journalists’ is a normal thing for Heads of States to do, I will be the first person to join those asking for the Almighty to continue to bless our President for his tolerance to criticisms even as the Hawks in this Government would wish not. May God Bless President Ernest Bai Koroma for his tolerance. Amen.
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Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.