By Jariatu S. Bangura
At the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) training, journalists across Sierra Leone have been urged to display professionalism in carrying out their duties during the upcoming June 24 general elections, so as to ensure their safety and security.
National Coordinator, MRCG,Dr. Francis Sowa said the training was a continuation of what they started in 2000 when a study was conducted and a report produced sometimes in 2001 &2002.
He said they looked at the safety of journalists in Sierra Leone and current issues affecting the media landscaping and made recommendations for a review of the study.
He cited that according to the report, there were issues of intimidation, arrest, harassment and detention of journalists, but noted that things have drastically changed as at now.
He said the law which initially gave the police the right to arrest was no longer in existence since the repeal of Part Five of the Public Order Act of 1965.
He further noted that even though most of the problems highlighted in the report have been reduced, but new happenings are also coming up that affect the smooth operation of journalists in the country.
President of Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL),Eastina Taylor, said the training will address the pressing issues of media professionalism and journalist safety, adding that by fostering a culture of professionalism, ethical conduct, and respect for press freedom, journalists can rebuild public trust and strengthen the media’s ability to serve as the voice of the people.
She stated that colleagues should work collectively to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to navigate the electoral process safely, while upholding the principles of integrity, accuracy, and fairness.
She said it is the duty of journalists to safeguard the vital role of journalism in the society, as it shapes public discourse, empowers citizens, and promotes transparency.
“We hope that all of us will have robust discussions, sharing best practices and experiences, with the goal of charting a path towards a more accountable, responsible, and secure media landscape in Sierra Leone,” she said.
Executive Secretary of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Khalil Kallon said media professionalism is always expected in the journalistic work at all time and accuracy, balance and credibility need to be considered as well.
He said as elections draw closer, the security and safety of journalists should be considered and commended the MRCG for carrying out such venture as it is very important.
He implored journalists to take the training seriously as many a times they find themselves in front of the court, the IMC and other various committees for lack of professionalism.
Also representing the President of Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Christian Conteh, said as it stands now, there are people who are professionals and non-professionals in the journalism field with social media is now on the rampage, but noted that it is high time media practitioners showed their professionalism based on reportage.
He urged IMC, MRCG and SLAJ to continue to capacitate journalists and make the difference and have very productive and vibrant practitioners.