HRCSL Condemns Hate Political Messages and Media Contents
Tuesday, June 19, 2012: The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) has observed with dismay the use of obscene languages in the media, as well as in public utterances by certain politicians and their allies, including journalists, to launch personal attacks against their opponents especially during the last three months, which has the potential to incite tribal and regional hatred.
Such statements and publications/broadcasts are becoming more systematic in certain national newspapers, on the national TV, radio stations and global social media network forums such as Facebook, with outright disregard for the Media Code of Practice of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and the Political Parties Code of Conduct.
The Commission strongly condemns this negative trend which has the potential to polarize the political landscape along regional and tribal lines, with disastrous consequences if left unchecked.
HRCSL wishes to remind everyone that we are still recovering from the effects of the decade long civil war in Sierra Leone, which was significantly fueled by politicians and certain sections of the media, leaving the journalists themselves polarized and their profession in a serious credibility crisis, a point which was noted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Sierra Leone.
Considering the crucial role of the fourth estate in the electoral process, the Commission therefore calls on all journalists/media personnel especially those engaged in what qualify as ‘speculative’ and ‘hate’ journalism to be ethical and refrain from publishing articles, encouraging discussions or airing of news items that provoke or promote tribal hatred and/or media or political violence.
Newspaper publishers and editors and producers of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBC) TV and radio and other radio stations are specifically urged to adhere to the Media Code of Practice and refrain from allowing politicians to use their media entities to settle scores, promote or provoke ethnic divides or intimidate opponents, thereby putting their credibility at stake and undermining the democratic process.
The leaders of all political parties who have openly denounced violence at recent public forums and pledged to be law abiding, are urged to lead by example and ensure that their members and supporters desist from fanning the flames of discord against each other in the political process.
While appreciating recent pronouncements and actions by the IMC, which has the statutory mandate to regulate the independent media, HRCSL wishes to further urge them to be proactive and robust in addressing unethical conducts in the media.
The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is also called upon to constructively engage its membership to refrain from inciting tribal and regional sentiments among the public and to promote tolerance, unity and peace.
HRCSL also wishes to urge the PPRC which has the statutory mandate to regulate the conduct of politicians and political parties, to be assertive in ensuring adherence to the Political Parties Code of Conduct and other recent declarations of commitment to peace by the leaders of political parties.
Any deviation from these has the potential to undermine the electoral process, violate human rights and threaten national cohesion.
Commissioner Rev. Moses Khanu Commissioner Jamesina King
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