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Security sector, media seek stronger partnership

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

Senior officials of the security sector and the media on Tuesday 11 March discussed at length ways of ensuring a stronger relationship between the two bodies.

At a symposium organized by the African Center for Strategic Studies-Sierra Leone Chapter 29, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), at the International Military Advisory Training Team (IMATT) center in Freetown, participants from the two bodies highlighted the challenges faced in dealing with each other and recommended for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be developed in order to foster stronger relationship.

Dr. Shekou Sesay, who delivered the keynote address, stressed the need for the security sector and the media to develop synergies in their interactions because, according to him, such synergy, when effectively promoted and galvanized, with goodwill on both sides, could have significant positive impact on the nation.

He stated that experience in Africa, including Sierra Leone, indicates that the security sector and the media sometimes interact in a conflictual manner in their encounter and engagement, noting that each sector could pursue its independent role in national development in tandem with the role of the other with the aim of eschewing conflict situations and instead promote cooperation synergies.

“Both sectors should resort to the use of dialogue to set the stage for the necessary promotion of proactive synergy in their interaction. Fortunately, the security sector – being a highly structured and disciplined entity – can use this asset to initiate constructive engagement with the media,” he said.

In his presentation on behalf of SLAJ, Tonya Musa, who lectures at the Mass Communication Department, Fourah Bay College, stated that apart from security alertness, media reporting can reduce corruption in the security sector, and that reporting what is happening within the ranks and file of the police and military is very sensitive.

He noted that in Sierra Leone, some journalists have complained of being intimidated for promoting dialogue on matters relating to social accountability regarding those serving in peace missions as police or soldiers.

Also delivering a paper on behalf of the security sector, Francis L. Keili maintained that the media and security sector are mutually dependent and that constructive media engagement can help dispel security rumour-mongering.

He recommended for sustainable channels of communication between the media and security sector, and the media to be allowed a space for greater access to the security sector.