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Strategic Communications Unit supports community radio stations

By Joseph S. Margai, Strategic Communications Coordinator

Efforts to ensure that it complements free speech and create a smooth platform for journalism to thrive, the Strategic Communications Unit in the Office of the President at State House, on Wednesday, 8 September, 2021, has started to rollout support to five community radio stations in rural Sierra Leone.

The support was a complement to President Julius Maada Bio’s expulsion of part five of the 1965 Public Order Act, which has now enhanced free speech and freedom of expression, thereby ensuring that the obnoxious law, which had previously criminalized free speech and stifled journalism, became a history in Sierra Leone.

Beneficiary community radio stations for this first phase include VOPAD Radio in Waterloo, Mongo Radio in Falaba, Gbaft Radio in Mile 91, Lunsar Radio in Port Loko Dsitrict and MODCAR Radio in Moyamba District.

Speaking at a handing over ceremony in Waterloo, Dr. Patrick K. Muana, Senior Policy Adviser to President Julius Maada Bio and Head of the Strategic Communications Unit, said the support was a way of enhancing free speech and boosting journalistic practice in rural Sierra Leone.

He highlighted some of the achievements of the President Bio’s-led administration by stating that death penalty has been abolished, the obnoxious seditious libel law of 1965 has been expunged, the sexual offences court has been set up to try those who sexually abuse women and girls, massive improvement in the human capital development drive, the initiation and successful implementation of the free quality education has removed economic burden on parents and guardians, among many others.

He warned the audience not to pay attention to President Bio’s detractors on social media, who are bent on destroying their country’s image in the name of politics.

Dr. P.K. Muana, who stated that VOPAD Radio and the other beneficiary radio stations were asked by the Strategic Communications Unit at State to send in their requests of their needs, have been going through difficulties to ply their trade in their various communities.

“As a team, we looked at their needs and decided to intervene. We supported VOPAD with a motorbike, laptop computer, generator, digital recorders, studio microphones and cash as a token to the volunteering staff. Plans are underway for VOPAD radio to benefit from an uninterrupted electricity supply,” he stated.

VOPAD’s Station Manager, Joseph Lamin, disclosed that prior to the support from the Strategic Communications Unit, they used to broadcast for only six hours a day instead of the required 24 hours.

Reasons for this, he noted, was the unavailability of uninterrupted electricity supply, insufficient income generation by the radio to purchase fuel for the old generator that they were using, demotivated volunteering staff, lack of modern broadcasting equipment, among others.

“We never had digital recorders to interview people. We always use our mobile phones which make the interview to have noisy backgrounds. We have 10 volunteers here and were constraints with mobility,” he disclosed.

He expressed appreciation to the President Julius Maada Bio’s-led government, which through the Strategic Communications Unit, has extended an olive branch to VOPAD radio.

Sierra Leone People’s Party’s (SLPP) East Rural District Chairman, who is also the Deputy Minister of Energy, Dr. Eldred T. Taylor, appreciated the Strategic Communications Unit for their support to VOPAD radio.

“This radio station was really going through some challenges to do their work. But with such support, they will compete with other radio stations in the country,” he said.

Commissioner, National Assets and Government Property Commission, Chief Abu Hindolo Moseray, warned the VOPAD staff not to misuse government assets or property.

“I am aware that the building that is currently hosting the radio here belongs to the government, please take good care of it. The newly donated items, which came from the government, must be always taken care of,” he admonished the management and staff.

VOPAD’s Acting Board Chairman, Emmanuel Justin Margai, acknowledged the role played by the former SLPP East Rural District Chairman-Habib Thorpe-in setting up the radio station in 2008.

He appreciated the Strategic Communications Unit for their timely intervention in providing both financial and modern broadcasting equipment support to the radio station.

Current and former Village Heads of Kissy Town community, where VOPAD radio operates, Foday Mattia and Mohamed Davies Koroma, expressed delight over the support that the President Julius Maada Bio’s government has brought to the radio.

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