Your Excellency, President [Ernest Bai]
Minister of Information, Hon. Alhaji [I.B.] Kargbo,
Chairman of the SLBC, Professor [Septimus M.] Kaikai,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a profound honour to join you as we
welcome the birth of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation - a milestone
on this country's march to progress.
SLBC -- your new public broadcaster -- is a
gift to every woman, man and child in Sierra Leone.
Only a decade ago, this beautiful country
was locked in ugly conflict. Far too often, the most common means of
communication were bullets, guns and other weapons of war.
Today, Sierra Leone is at peace -- looking
to the future with confidence and promise.
You have conducted two peaceful democratic
transitions of power and are now preparing for the third national elections.
This is not simply a transition, it is a
And the credit belongs to you – the people
of Sierra Leone.
There were many who were honoured to join
you on your extraordinary journey to reconciliation and peace.
One of those partners was the United
Nations – and one of the most effective tools we had was United Nations
It was a heroic effort.
Building a radio station from scratch to
broadcast across the length and breadth of the country.
Setting up transmitters in remote,
Establishing first-of-its-kind programming
to reach all the people.
Broadcasting 24 hours a day.
All in the wake of a horrific civil war, at
a time of incredible tension.
People followed every word.
And, bit by bit, something remarkable
The radio station helped Sierra Leone tune
itself to the frequency of peace.
I want to thank the many journalists and
staff of the UN radio... almost all Sierra Leoneans... for their dedicated
and professional work. Over the past ten years, they have become a trusted
voice throughout the country.
Now, you have embarked on another
You have brought together the
state-controlled broadcaster and the UN Radio and established an Independent
Broadcasting Corporation. We must work to ensure that this new station will
build on the best traditions of its two successors.
Mr. President, I commend you, your
government and parliament for your action. I salute parliamentarians for
unanimously passing a historic bill that created the SLBC.
Let me also congratulate Professor Kaikai
and the Board of Trustees for their dedication. You are true pioneers in
creating this new independent broadcaster, and many of your colleagues will
look to you as an example.
Much effort has brought us to this day. Yet
the hard work begins now; there are big challenges ahead.
Political leadership must ensure that
journalists are free to practice their profession without fear of criminal
charges for simply doing their job.
At the same time, journalists must respect
the principle of non-partisanship and the responsibility that comes with
And the SLBC must be the very embodiment of
its founding principles – the impartiality and accuracy that are essential
for any truly independent public broadcaster.
With the birth of SLBC, Sierra Leone is
broadcasting a strong message to the world.
You are showing the power of public
broadcasting to heal wounds and build peace and prosperity. To be a strong
voice for national unity, social progress and economic development. To set
new standards in the region for democratic institutions.
It gives me great pleasure to hand over
this enterprise to an outstanding Board of Trustees and to a committed team
of journalists and broadcasters.
I pledge the continuing support of the
United Nations. And I know that with political leadership, dedication and
commitment, the people of Sierra Leone will make sure that the SLBC will
shine as an example for the entire region.
Thank you very much.