The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Sierra Leonehas, in their final report on the 2012 general elections released Wednesday February 20,paid tribute to Concord Timesfor the professional, objective and unbiased manner the newspaper provided coverage for the elections and the activities of political parties throughout the entire electioneering process.
The report described Concord Times' coverage of the November 17 polls as "balanced and neutral" both in amount of space and tone devoted to political parties. The Awoko newspaper was equally also recognised for its objectivity in the entire electioneering period.
"The Concord Times and Awoko offered balanced and neutral coverage of the campaign period, both in amount of space and tone devoted to political parties," the report noted.
According to the report, presented by the EU EOMChief Observer, Richard Howitt, at a press conferencein Freetown, the EU Election Observation Missionfrom October 17 to November 15 conducted a media monitoring exercise in order to assess whether political parties and candidates obtained equitable access to the media and whether the media abided by the rules and regulations for media coverage during elections campaign period. They observed that coverage of the electoral process by the media was clearly dominated by the two major parties - APC and SLPP.No formal complaints in relation to elections coverage, according to the report, were submitted to the IMC against the newspaper during the campaign period. The IMC, the report noted, was active in publishing press releases and sending letters to some newspaper editors,asking all media practitioners to report on the electoral process in an accurate and fair way and to refrain from spreading hateful, inflammatory or inciteful messages or disseminating any information that could distort the elections results.
According to the report, Concord Times allocated equitable space to all political parties [based on their size and influence] with 39% allocated to the opposition SLPP,41% to the ruling APC,5%to NDA, 3% to UDM and 1% to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)party.
Concord Times Editor, Moses A. Kargbo, said he was not surprised by the special highlight being made in the EU Election Observation Mission's final report of the newspaper's objective and neutral stance in the whole electioneering process.
"This is what we always strive to maintain at Concord Times by observing the highest professional standards in the discharge of our duties," said Mr. Kargbo. "This is a height that is very difficult to attain, especially with the polarised nature of our society where whatever you say or publish is given a colour. But\ always stay focused in whatever you are doing, shun parochial interests and make sure you serve the greater majority."
Kargbo said he was delighted for his newspaper's credible performance in the elections to have been documented by no less an organization as the European Union, describing the achievement as "a feather in the cap of our editorial team and the entire management of the newspaper".
Meanwhile, EU EOM's final report has adjudged the November 17, 2012 as free and fair, and conducted in a very credible and transparent manner that meets international standards.
The EU EOM's Final Report offers a comprehensive analysis of all aspects of the Sierra Leonean electoral process, namely the legal framework, the work of the electoral administration, voter registration, candidates' nomination, the electoral campaign, the role of the media, voting, counting and tallying processes and the resolution of electoral complaints and appeals.
The report also includes recommendations to improve future electoral processes in Sierra Leone.