Thursday, 21 March 2013
Seychelles Most Wanted, Call to boycott the Beau Vallon service station, Gaps and challenges found by UN experts in the protection of the child here, "Connection of jailed smuggler to be investigated" - MoE and Le Rocher residents petitioned authority and many many more stories. On the Expose page we take a closer lot at the Meteorological Service on the occasion of the organisation World Day. We also catch up with Mrs. Lyvette Hermitte, the mother of Ricky Hermitte who was murdered at Kan Tobruk in 2006. Buy your copy early or subscribe online.
Friday, 15 March 2013
In September 2012, this newspaper emailed the police requesting that LSH is added to their email list so that we can receive all press communiqués from the police.
The last time we received a press release from the police was on the 30th of June 2012. Our email was never acknowledged and we continued not to receive any communication from the institution which claims to serve without fear or favour.
Then in January this year, LSH followed up on the request we initially sent four months prior. Only this time around we also copied the email to the Chief Press Secretary in the Office of the President, Srdjana Janosevic.
Again we expressed our interest in covering and following police stories, especially to post them as ‘breaking news’ on our Facebook page. We also informed the police Public Relation Officer, Jean Toussaint that we wanted to introduce a ‘Police File’ section in the newspaper in 2013 and would therefore; appreciate if we received regular updates about the organization.
Once again our request went unanswered.
Whilst the Government’s financed media are being used to pump out propaganda by trying to convince the public that crime is falling and our streets are safer than before, LSH wanted to establish a relationship with the police whereby we could report on their successes, but also have access to officers to substantiate any claims the public made.
LSH is well aware of the pressure the force is under from the Government to hit “public confidence” targets and reduce the “fear of crime”. But that does not mean we should allow the police to take control of the newspaper, through one sided reports and failing in our journalistic duties to ask questions that matter.
The police should realize that gone are the days when the state financed media was the only means of communicating broadly. The need is ever present to vary the audiences exposure in a wide range of media is vital.
Meanwhile we are still waiting for a press communiqué from the police.
Thursday, 14 March 2013
PL MNA gets 2 petrol stations, Intelvision in trouble (is to appear before the Seychelles Licensing Authority (SLA) to show cause as to why their cable TV license should not be revoked), 9 year-old taken to court for sword playing, 14 year-old released on account of time spent on remand and many many more stories. On the Expose page we take a closer look at the National Action Plan on Human Rights, a first of its kind in Seychelles. We also catch up with Marie Clarisse, the Chairperson of Lardwaz to mark the World Poetry Day on 21st March. Buy your copy early or Subscribe online.
Friday, 8 March 2013
Suddenly the ruling socialist regime of President Michel has discovered a new buzz word, ‘National Security.’ The country has seen its fair share of odd Government’s manoeuvres to hide information from the public, but few are as bizarre as using the excuse of national security.
This week I attended the International Monetary Fund (IMF) press conference where the organisation’s Chief of Mission, Carol Baker, the Minister of Finance, Pierre Laporte and the Governor of the Central Bank, Caroline Abel, were in attendance to answer the local media questions.
I specifically wanted to know what the Government was doing to disclose all relevant information about the national budget since the IMF is urging them to show more budget transparency?
Minister Laporte replied by saying: “We must understand that all governments in all countries have certain information which they cannot reveal. But I can give you my commitment that as the years go by we are trying to see how we can operate in a more transparent manner and we will see if the law permits us to give more budgetary information which will not necessarily put the country’s security at risk.”
His answer leaves open questions about how serious the Michel Administration is in promoting budget transparency. Budget transparency is a precondition for public participation in budget processes. The process is defined as the full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information in a timely and systematic manner.
To date only Members of the National Assembly and key officials from the Ministry of Finance have access to the budget document which is marked as ‘confidential’. Should the allocations of taxpayers’ money be subjected to full public disclosure? A budget document for example should be left at the National Library for all interested parties to consult at their own leisure.
The combination of Budget transparency, public participation in budget processes and media scrutiny has the potential to combat corruption, foster public accountability of government agencies and contribute to judicious use of public funds. Local civil society movements should also start agitating for improved transparency in the budget processes.
No law or any buzz words like ‘national security’ should bar the media or the public from getting access to what is rightfully owned by the public. What we need is the rejection of secrecy as a means of control and simple political willingness in making it happen. It is time we have an honest Government instead of one which is finding every excuses to hide the truth.
Thursday, 7 March 2013
"We are not the policeman" says the IMF as the mission here admits doing nothing to curb corruption in Seychelles' public sector, Seychelles ranked 51st most corrupt country in the world, Seychelles first in African Travel and Tourism competitiveness, over 50 annual secondary school drop outs: Pointe Larue School fared badly and many, many more stories. On the Expose page we take a special look at the messages to mark International Women's Day. On our back page interview we bring you a special report on the Minister of Finance's declarations during this week's IMF press conference. Buy your copy early or subscribe online.
Friday, 1 March 2013
The ruling party politicians often rail against the Opposition newspapers, but in general we know for a fact that they are very up to date with our weekly publication. They read it, take notice of what we publish and often take actions to rectify concerns we raised.
The latest manifestation of this Opposition press love-in involves Le Seychellois Hebdo and the Seychelles Weekly newspapers.
On Tuesday’s State of the Nation Address (SONA), Parti Lepep’s Plaisance MNA, Roma Aglae, spoke of the vital role the Opposition press play to report on the other side of the country’s actualities.
Ms Aglae admitted that if it was not for the Opposition press, the Government and the public would not know about a lot of things that is happening the country.
Her remark although a rare admission of the truth certainly made a valuable point with regards to the roles the newspapers play as a vehicles for social change.
Whilst her other colleagues were not as appreciative, such as the Leader of the Government Business, who took time to counteract LSH article about the President’s gratuity and others who opposed our views on the crisis in the health sector amongst other current affairs.
Since the return of multiparty politics, newspapers like Regar, Seychelles Weekly, the Independent and now LSH have been an important source of information particularly news that the authority does not want the community to know about. They have broken stories that have shocked the nation and exposed several corrupt and unethical practices. Some reports have been so embarrassing to the Government that they have resorted to bullying tactics including hefty lawsuits and direct threats on the lives of particular individuals.
Although the changing technological environment may bring about increasing competition for the weekly Opposition newspapers in terms of immediacy of news from the new media, we are keen on embracing the changes and shall continue to strive to report on what really matters to the Seychellois public.
Friday, 22 February 2013
I got asked a question recently from a Seychellois living abroad about the Freedom of Information (FOI) concept in Seychelles. The person wanted to know why I don’t use FOI as a journalistic tool to scrutinize the government and ensure more transparency in LSH’s reporting.
FOI is a system to control access to official documents and a means by which journalists, and citizens, can scrutinise and publicise the work of governments.
It is a modern concept that most democratic and liberal societies are putting into law. To date, over 90 countries around the globe have enacted some form of FOI legislation. Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 is the oldest in the world.
Amongst the 53 African states only four have some form of FOI legislation – South Africa (2000), Zimbabwe (2002), Uganda (2008) and Nigeria (2011). Is that surprising in any way? FOI laws deal with official documents of an agency or a minister, and sometimes government-owned corporations and certain contractors, but have only limited range over Parliaments, law enforcement agencies and the courts. FOI is a human right and countries that are opposing its enactment are in violation of international human rights law. The delaying tactics in enacting the FOI Act serves to show the world that these governments are failing in their duties to promote openness.
So in answer to my friend’s question, Seychelles is far from even discussing openly the idea of introducing the concept of FOI. Over here the culture of managing the flow of information to the media and the public at large prevails. The free media is not invited to any government official press briefings as a means of ensuring that the community hears their preferred message above all others. But am happy that he has raised the point and that we can know start a public dialogue on the issue.
Every local organisation concerned with FOI, government accountability, the right to disseminate information and also the pursuit of transparency should come together and agitate for this much needed piece of legislation. Today our population is interested in several areas of government such as sale of state land, economic management, key infrastructure projects, the management of major sports and events, security clearance procedures, the management of major funds like the Children’s Fund and any systemic corruption which we can only start to comprehend fully with the help of FOI.