Hon Umpha Sorie koroma speaks on the information and civic education

Following the familiarization meeting of the Ministry of Information and Civic Education and its sector agencies with the newly formed Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Information and Civic Education at the House of Parliament on Friday 1st March, 2024, Expo Magazine  conducted an exclusive interview with Hon. Umpha Sorie Koroma, the chairman  of this committee on how his Committee is positioned to support the sector.

 Expo Magazine: How is your committee doing?

Hon. Umpha Sorie Koroma: so far, we are doing okay, we have initiated familiarization meeting with ministries, departments and agencies that are under our purview and that was specifically to create familiarization with the activities of the respective ministries, departments and agencies. From that meeting, a lot of issues have emanated, a lot of interest has provoked our curiosity; so, I think it was a good meeting.

Expo Magazine: Misinformation in the digital world is overcoming accurate information with the use of social media, your committee is responsible for providing oversight to the ministry of Information and civic education. How are you and members going to ensure you curb misinformation and disinformation?

Hon. Unpha Sorie Koroma: first of all the will has to be there, the political will from the ministry, the vision also has to be tailored in that manner, meaning; the Ministry of Information and Civic Education has to create that environment it has to ensure that it interfaces with all the entities charged with providing information to the people of the republic and to ensure that information is provided at the requisite time. We just approved the new director general for the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation. SLBC, as an entity, should make it their business to combat misinformation. We want to realize wider media coverage and to make information shared in major local dialects. Information on media platforms (radios, televisions, newspapers) should be vital in informing people accordingly.

Expo Magazine: There are already existing policies and the Minister has promised to present some policy reforms, what is your assurance in making sure that these policies are actionable?

Hon. Unpha Sorie Koroma: well, we have a pragmatic, young and energetic minister that is very ambitious and he has committed himself to rolling out those plans and, we as a committee, will ensure that we support him and the ministry in their policy drives and to ensure that those drives come to reality. As an oversight committee, of course, we oversee what they are doing, but we cannot ask of them, what we cannot give to them; so, we have to support them in order to ask of them to be at their best.

Expo Magazine: In your engagement with the ministry under your watch, you talked about civic education what will be your role, especially when it comes to working together for such important things to be achieved?

 Hon. Umpha Sorie Koroma: Understanding the problem, they have to be honest with us, they have to tell us their challenges, they have to tell us how far they’ve gone in addressing or fixing their challenges and they have to tell us where the bottlenecks are. Once that is done, we would go there and ensure that we remove the bottlenecks if we can. We will ensure that we create the enabling environment to address the stumbling blocks that they experience. So, honesty is important commitment in just putting the truth out there for us to understand where their challenges are. They should be open to criticisms; we should be able to critic what they do, as that is the only way we can support with ideas and actions.

Expo Magazine: Right to Access Information Commission (RAIC) is among the M DAs under your watch, as a chairman how can you help them address some of the issues, they highlighted especially the logistical and financial problems?

Hon. Unpha Sorie Koroma: Just before I respond to that, when you talked about right to access information, the first thing that comes to mind is the logistical problems, especially the financial challenge; so for us, we advocate on their behalf for government to increase their budget allocations. You cannot form an entity and leave it to suffocate and die. The only way they can thrive or perform their mandate as enshrined in the Act is to support them with the requisite financial support. So, as a committee, we will highlight some of the challenges that they have had over the years so that when appropriation of budget time comes along, we would be the ones requesting and advocating on their behalf to ensure that they have the requisite financial and logistical supports they need to carry out their mandate.

Expo Magazine: As a chairman of the Civic Education committee, what strategy will you use to change the narrative in Sierra Leone?

Hon. Umpha Sorie Koroma: Well, civic education is very critical for the ministry and for my committee. As a committee, this is one thing we pay lots of attention to because in the civic education space, there is lot of misunderstanding. And attitudinal change is another important consideration. We, as Sierra Leoneans, have to understand our responsibilities to the State, self, and to our communities; and through civic education, we will be able to understand that we have a responsibility to the State, to ourselves and to our communities and that is something we will critically look at. We want to fight against misinformation and we want to ensure that the right information goes to the right people and that information channels have to be open; information channels have to be empowered. Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation has to be empowered to ensure that they compete with other private sector media like the AYV, Star TV, Radio Democracy and all of those entities that are in the private sector that are filing the space. SLBC has to be innovative.

Expo Magazine: Any other message you have for the public?

Hon. Umpha Sorie Koroma: Well, I am pleased to be given this privilege to perform this function for the country, for Parliament, for my constituency, and for my party. Being a chairman of an oversight committee is a huge responsibility, but it is not a right, it is a privilege. If I am given that opportunity, I want to make sure we do justice and work hand in glove with all members of parliament. The Information and Civic Education Committee comprises members from different political parties and from various districts; we all work together to actualize developments in information and civic education in the country.

 Copy right –Printed in the Expo Times News on MONDAY, April 8th, 2024 (ExpoTimes News – Expo Media Group (expomediasl.com)