Magazine article New African

From the Minister of Information I.B. Kargbo: 'We Won't Repeat the Mistakes of the Past'

Magazine article New African

From the Minister of Information I.B. Kargbo: 'We Won't Repeat the Mistakes of the Past'

Article excerpt

Q. What has the government done to improve press freedom?

A. We have insisted that the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which registers and regulates the media, remains as independent as the Independent Media Commission (Amendment) Act 2006 would want it to be. This explains why even in the president's "assessment of ministers", the IMC is not included, because the president does not expect me as a minister to interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the IMC. Even though it's not policy yet, the president believes that journalists should not be arrested because they hold views contrary to the government's.

A Freedom of Information Bill has gone through all the processes in Parliament and will shortly become law, because the president believes that if you want to run a modern state, people should have access to information. This is how we are promoting transparency. Perhaps the challenge facing us now is to introduce some of our journalists to modern-day reporting.

A good number of issues are evolving. When we talk about human rights, we cannot just reduce it simplistically to the right to life or freedom of movement. Now we have a new generation of rights. Electricity is now a right; having a good road is now a right; healthcare is now a right. Thus we want our journalists to develop themselves so they can capture all of these. But apart from that, the government has been very accommodating.

Q. That's on an internal level. On an external level, what has the ministry done to change perception about the country abroad?

A. Well, we have tried to put in place structures for the rebranding of the country. It's a priority for us. Four ministries have been given the responsibility to rebrand the country - my ministry, the tourism ministry, foreign affairs and education. Though a lot of things are happening, those things by themselves are enough to convince the visitor to change his or her view about the country.

For example, one of the questions always asked by visitors to Freetown is: "Where did the fighting take place?" This is because they don't see the scars, they simply see a city! Because we are a committed people - this includes the opposition, we are all committed to ensuring that we don't go back to where we came from, the war - we have sent information attaches to our foreign missions to help the ambassadors disseminate information about the country. …

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