7 May 2009

Sierra Leone: IB Kargbo, Between Politics And Journalism


Freetown — The success of a given government depends on a number of reasons, one being; its ability to market itself to the electorate. This we have seen in many cases, especially in our 2007 Presidential elections. The Tejan Kabbah led SLPP government in my opinion, did well in certain areas but there was completely a vacuum created by that government, in terms of talking to the people as a way of propagating its successes and achievements. This eventually led to a political calamity on the part of the SLPP.

One thing that the Kabbah led government failed to do was strengthening it PR organ from within government circles. Professor Septimus Kai Kai is, in my judgment, among Sierra Leone's best Ministers of Information. He did all he could to communicate government policies to the people, despite the constraints he was getting. Remember the slogan; 'my President, your President and our President'?

But alas, reports indicated that the Professor's Minister was poorly budgeted for every year by the government and I think this was where the mistake started. Kabbah came and out in place structures for the promotion of good governance, and sustainable economic growth and development. But that was not communicated to the people.

The Ernest Koroma led APC government is trying to capitalize on the mistakes of the past government, especially by not allowing that any gap in information/communication to exist. Information, they say is power. This is what is today happening, especially with the modern development in technology.

IB Kargbo the journalist

Prior to his involvement in mainstream politics, IB Kargbo served as a journalist for donkey years with vast experience in the profession. H e largely helped, in my observation, in shaping journalism in Sierra Leone. He played his role in taking the profession where it is today. The history about the practice of journalism in Sierra Leone cannot be well written without reference to the role being played by Alhaji IB Kargbo.

He was, until his appointment as Minister of Information, a regular columnist in his own newspaper, the New Citizen, with is 'Last Word'. I have an uncle who was always willing to read IB's last word, however long that article could be. IB Kargbo is a good speaker, no doubt. He knows how to handle issues pertaining to the development of journalism as well as those pertaining to the welfare of journalists. When he was head of SLAJ, his pen never fell short of writing about press freedom. The UN radio, especially the programme 'Front Page' was a success due to the likes of IB Kargbo, the late Christian Kailie, Kelvin Lewis et al.

Harry Yansaneh was literally murdered whilst on duty. He was killed for what he belied in. But that issue became topical with the likes of IB Kargbo being at the forefront, in advocating for justice on behalf of our martyr colleague.

IB Kargbo until, he left mainstream journalism, was also an advocate for the repeal of the Public Order Act of 1965. The Public Order Act is a law that criminalizes free speech. It is not a good law, especially for a democratic state like Sierra Leone. This, IB Kargbo is aware of even when he is now in government.

IB Kargbo the Minister

He has been making a mark in the Ministry of Information and Communication. I started by referring to the days of Professor Kai Kai at the ministry. Professor Kai Kai could not succeed because, in m y judgment, he was not getting the support he aught to have got then.

It would appear that the Ministry of Information and Communication has been the most successful ministry under this regime. You may beg to differ but this is my view. The ministry has been given a facelift. The fact that there is now a regular press briefing is a pointer that the gap of communication between the governors and the governed has been sealed. The current SLAJ President, Umaru Fofana, is quoted as saying that this government has created an encouraging working environment for journalists. If that is so, then such credit should be taken by the current Information Minister, Alhaji IB Kargbo.

Indeed, there appears to be a favorable media working environment at present, though the Public Order Act is still in our law books and the Access to Information Bill has still not captured the attention of the government. Press freedom is core in democracy. A journalists is yet to get jailed under the regime of IB Kargbo as minister of Information and this is also good for him, only hopeful that, that trend will continue, because when you jail one journalist, that will go a long way in undermining the credentials you have gain over the years.

The SLBS will soon become cooperation and that besides, first in the history of this country for opposition party activities to be aired on state owned radio/TV.

IB the politician

Realistically, IB Kargbo only became known about his political linage with the APC following the victory of President Koroma in 2007. Until then, it was quite difficult to determine his political attachments. In fact, he was a close friend of President Kabbah.

Don't get me wrong, but from a personally view, the APC may sometimes be difficult to sell from the perspective of public relations. This has to do with the fact that, it is a grass root party that has the support of the common people. And as such, these people, referred to as the 'common people' are most times tempted to do what is not expected of them. But IB Kargbo has always been at the centre of defending the party.

The closure of the two political radio stations came at a time when we thought we should be nurturing our democracy. The decision was out rightly condemned but again, IB was at the centre in putting up defense. One could clearly sense some amount of difference between him; acting and speaking APC and when he speaks from the view point of a government functionary.

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