The Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swarray, has said in parliament that the new Independent Media Commission Bill (IMC Bill) that was deliberated upon at the pre-legislative stage in Committee Room Number One on Monday 14th July 2020, has a human face and the ability to transform the media landscape of the country.
He maintained that the IMC Bill is not a precondition for the repeal process but they are of the conviction that it has to be strengthened so that it can support independent professional journalists.
In the previous IMC Bill, he furthered, there was no attention paid to the Reporters themselves, but this new IMC Bill makes provision for payment of salaries to media practitioners.
For the longest time, the Information Minister noted that journalists have not been paid proper salaries as 90% of them have been using their ID cards to fend for themselves, which is not in the best interest of the profession.
Employers are supposed to pay their employees’ NASSIT contributions at least 10% of their gross earning while at the same time 5% should be deducted from their salary to save for the raining day.
He disclosed that media practitioners have been in the profession for over 30-40 years but they still “COAST” ( begging or extorting money from the public). “They don’t do it because they want to do it as a way of life, but simply because provision was never made for them when they retired.”
Minister Swaray underlined that it is for reasons like this that they are insisting that salaries and other emulements be paid to journalists.
He added that as government they believe that because journalists play a key and critical role in holding the high and mighty to account, media leadership positions like Station Managers and Editord are too serious to be occopied by people who have not invested in professional development by way of acquiring university degree, diploma or certificate.
“We have agreed that it can be in any decipline but the holder of such positions must have a university degree; we encourage SLAJ to encourage their members to aspire to professional enhancement so that we can have upward career development,” he said.
Minister Swaray posited that by continuing to maintain the Criminal Libel Law in the country’s law books government is violating twelve international conventions which according to him dents the country’s democratic credentials.
For that reason and many others, this government is poised to get it expunged from the law books of the country.
Already, he asserted, His Excellency the President Dr Julius Maada Bio has taken bold steps in rebranding the country and repositioning it so that it could attract a fair share of foreign direct investment therefore this will be an add-up if this process happens as the government will be able to attract more investment in the country. He noted that because there is this law hanging over the media not many people will invest in it as you are not sure along the whole supply chain right from the editor, the vendor, the publisher, or anyone if they cannot be brought in for criminal libel. For that reason, he said, they believe the media should be unshackled so that journalists are able to practice their trade unhindered