Internews meets journalists


February 20, 2018 By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Albert Massaquoi of  NEC during Internews  (standing) meeting with journalists at Country Lodge Hote in Freetown.

Internews, an international media development organisation based in the United States, last Friday (16th February) met with journalist to discuss “Live and online elections reporting” at the Country Lodge Hotel in Freetown.

The discussion focused on issues around fake news, identifying and responding to rumours online and social media amongst others.

Speaking during the round table meeting, Project Director Arwen Kidd said Internews was implementing their first project in Sierra Leone as part of the organisation’s elections project, adding that a round table discussions on issues of online elections reporting on social media, especially WhatsApp, Facebook, or Twitter, among others was significant.

She said that as a media strengthening institution they have been working in different countries since 1982.

The project director said that the project in Sierra Leone has twelve month duration, starting from January to December.

“Internews work to ensure access to trusted, quality information that empowers people to have a voice in their future and to live,” she said.

The Internews Project Director said the project in Sierra Leone is funded by USAID – and that they are working as part of the CEPPS Consortium, which includes IRI, IFES, NDI, and Search for Common Ground.

“Today’s round table discussion is the first in a series of four round table events to be held during this elections period (i.e. February and March 2018) which will also be focusing on topics relating to media and the elections,” she revealed.

Ngolo Katta, spokesperson for National Elections Watch (NEW), while speaking on the use of online platforms to identify information gaps among voters, said online media is an emerging environment for us as a country, be it WhatsApp or Facebook, adding that these platforms were sources of information.

Katta said that voter information needs are fundamental but fluid as they are many in varying situation.

He said the voter information needs could be viewed from two angles: Elections Management Bodies (EMB) and political parties’ relations, adding that it reduces the opportunity for conflict.

The NEW spokesman said that misinformation could be very chaotic; hence the role stakeholders should be encouraged to make information readily available during the elections as information is power.

He also urged the security sector to train their personnel on elections management processes.

Albert Massaquoi, Director of Media and External Relations at the National Electoral Commission (NEC), said the commission has started receiving requests for accreditation from media houses.

He maintained that every media practitioner could request for accreditation to cover the elections, but that there were procedures for the issuance of accreditation.

He revealed that NEC would soon establish a dedicated website for real time update of the results which will be very useful to the public, especially journalists.

The NEC media boss said they would set up different tallying centres in the east, west, north–west and southern regions of the country and that they have signed a lease agreement with local councils to use their facilities as tallying centres.

He advised journalists not to insist on interviewing elections staff or anybody in the queue unless they consent to granting interviews.

The round table meeting entailed discussions around fake news, challenges and effects on elections information, and how journalists can make use of it to disseminate information, amongst others.