''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 2

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Saturday May 3, 2014 - World Press Freedom Day 2014 - This year's theme is - "Media freedom for a better future: Shaping the post-2015 development agenda."  Sierra Leone is downgraded from Free to Partly Free in press freedom.Editor Jonathan Leigh

According to UNESCO this year the focus is on three inter-related themes: media’s importance in development; safety of journalists and the rule of law; and the sustainability and integrity of journalism. In 2015, the lofty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will come to an end. Their influence in shaping flows of development aid, and national policies and practices, has been significant. In their place will likely be a new set of goals, which are being debated internationally under the label of "the post 2015 Development Agenda".

It is time once again to see how countries have been performing with regards to freedom of the press and the rights of journalists to report on what they think is right, wrong or not just doesn't look good in the countries in which they operate. Sierra Leone has now gone from Free to Partly Free. According to Freedom House Sierra Leone declined to this status, Partly Free, "due to persistent problems with corruption and transparency". We would add that for a country where the rat is king, this does not spell well for a Sierra Leone still trying to rise from the ashes of a very brutal, destructive and all-consuming war.

And the genesis of that war, declared over by the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 2002, could be traced to rampant corruption as highlighted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report. The reports of the Commissions of Inquiry set up by the National Provisional Ruling Council, the NPRC also highlighted the level of corruption that was encouraged which made honest Sierra Leoneans perceived as "stupid and unproductive".

This new and disgraceful status could be traced to the crackdown on journalists and press houses that refused to tow the government line because they do not want to feed fat on the droppings from the corrupt rat at State House. The order from above (read the rat's directive) that saw editor Jonathan Leigh and staff of his newspaper harassed, detained and incarcerated before being taken to court on trumped up charges and denied bail many times is just too fresh in the minds of journalists. Other media houses were ransacked by security officials acting "on orders from above" as the government tried to muzzle the press in Sierra Leone.

It would be recalled that quite recently, the government rushed through the Right to Information Act, which according to Freedom House - "aims to promote transparency, good governance, and accountability in the West African nation. It establishes the right to access government information and requires all governmental departments to widely distribute a formal strategy for making their records publicly available. The new law also imposes a penalty for those who fail to comply. In passing this legislation, Sierra Leone joined only 10 other countries in Africa with freedom of information laws in place. In the months to come, the government and the international community must ensure that the law is fully implemented, as observers have noted serious and growing problems involving corruption and a lack of transparency over the past year".

There lies the crux of the matter. It is a well-known fact that the bill was rushed through a rudderless and compliant Parliament because the government wanted to make a kill from the funds that would have been generated had it passed the US Millenium Challenge Corporation tests. The Right to Access Information Act was one of the key "to do" items that would have seen the government garnering in more funds that would largely have ended up in the coffers of corrupt government functionaries.

They are still smarting from this failure never mind the initial smoke-screen that was put around it at the time. Up to the time of writing this, nothing has changed in terms of transparency in the affairs of government as operatives of the rat continue to hide key documents that should be of help to journalists wishing to investigate the award of contracts, the money flow between government and extractive industries operating in the country as well as why the government, without the say so of Parliament entered into a deal that saw Sierra Rutile, the mining concern becoming a new venture that further deprives the Sierra Leonean of its true worth.

Journalists would still want to know the role played by the extractive industries - money and other support - in the rat's campaign leading to the 2012 polls as well as the source of all those foreign currencies that he disburses in illegal manoeuvres to bribe and silence all those he considers a stumbling block to his "progress" in wanting to stay forever at State House.

In a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, he has noted, among others -

Journalists are singled out for speaking or writing uncomfortable truths – kidnapped, detained, beaten and sometimes murdered. Such treatment is completely unacceptable in a world ever more reliant on global news outlets and the journalists who serve them...There must be no impunity for those who target journalists for violence, intimidation or distorted uses of legal procedures to disrupt or impede their work.

Media freedoms must continue to be at the centre of our work to promote security, dignity and prosperity for all. Member States are deep in discussion about the post-2015 development agenda.  This is a once-in-generation opportunity to steer the world in a more sustainable and equitable direction.

Free media, traditional and new, are indispensable for development, democracy and good governance.  They can promote transparency about the new goals that Member States will adopt – progress as well as shortfalls.

Social media and mobile technologies offer new tools for accelerating citizen participation and economic and social progress. 

The media’s watchdog function is essential for holding Governments, businesses and others to account. 

On this World Press Freedom Day, I call on all Governments, societies and individuals to actively defend this fundamental right as critical factors in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing the post-2015 development agenda. 

Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results for people and the planet.

The Secretary General and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova have jointly noted that - "Journalism provides a platform for informed discussion across a wide range of development issues – from environmental challenges and scientific progress to gender equality, youth engagement and peace building. Only when journalists are at liberty to monitor, investigate and criticize policies and actions can good governance exist."

On April 29, 2014 Sheila Herrling, Acting CEO, Millennium Challenge Corporation was asked to appear before the US House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations  and to tell law makers, just what good the programme has done for Africa. She noted - Sheila Herrling, Acting CEO, Millennium Challenge Corporation

This year is the 10th anniversary of MCC’s founding. I am especially grateful to share this milestone with this subcommittee and your colleagues, without whose support we would not be so successful. The bipartisan decision to launch MCC was a brave one, and no one knew whether the experiment would work.

Was it possible to select partner countries based on solid, objective evidence of their commitment to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their people?

Could you really run development like a business, using rigorous economic analysis to decide which investments in those countries would have the biggest impact – and then doing independent evaluations to find out if they really worked?

And would poor countries truly be able to take ownership of these investments, and ensure the money was not wasted or diverted?

Ten years later, I am happy to report that the experiment has been a success, and that the trust you put in this new approach to aid effectiveness has paid off. Over the past decade, we have signed 27 compacts which are expected to benefit almost 174 million people worldwide. Of those 27 signed compacts, 15 have been signed with African countries, totaling close to $6 billion. These partnerships span the continent and include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia.

Behind every number is a person who benefits from MCC’s investment. These include the women in Burkina Faso, Mali and Mozambique whose names can now appear on land titles, paving the way for them to be economic agents of change. These are the patients at new health clinics in Lesotho and students at schools in Ghana. And these are families with better access to clean water for drinking or irrigation for citizens of Cabo Verde, Zambia, Mozambique, Mali, Senegal and Ghana. All of these meet the agency’s strict requirements for only doing projects that promote economic growth.

There's a key point here that should be noted by the rat and his operatives who refuse to accept that their bid to get their paws on the US tax payers' money was a total failure especially when it comes to corruption in the land of the smoke and mirrors rat of a President.

Corruption in any country is an unacceptable tax on economic growth, and an obstacle to the private sector investment needed to reduce poverty. Corruption hinders economic growth by increasing costs, lowering productivity, discouraging investment, and reducing confidence in public institutions. American businesses seeking out opportunities abroad want environments that are free from corruption and conducive to job creation. Policymakers – including this Subcommittee -- want to be sure that investments of U.S. tax dollars are not susceptible to corruption.

Fighting corruption has always been a cornerstone of MCC’s approach to poverty reduction. MCC evaluates prospective partner countries based on how they perform on the agency’s annual scorecards, comprising 20 third-party indicators. By requiring countries to pass the Control of Corruption indicator in order to pass our scorecard, we seek to ensure our partners share this commitment. We also work to combat corruption in our partner countries through our poverty-reduction programs, where appropriate. And we take stringent measures to prevent, detect, and respond to instances of possible corruption as our compacts are implemented. These measures have been adopted by some of our country partners in their own government procurement systems.

For FY 2015, MCC would use $766 million of our $1 billion request for compact assistance to Liberia, Morocco, Niger, and Tanzania. All four countries are currently developing compact proposals for approval by MCC’s Board of Directors. These countries, home to nearly 100 million people combined, are among the world’s poorest, but each has taken significant steps to improve governance and achieve eligibility for MCC compact assistance. The increase in funding will support significant compact investments in these countries to unlock key constraints to economic growth, incentivize policy and institutional reforms necessary for private investment, and improve the well-being of some of the world’s poorest people.

Long live press freedom.

Yearning for the mother country?

The right choice is Kevin McPhilips Travel

©Sierra Herald 2002