July 21, 2017
As part of efforts to reform the media in Sierra Leone, the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), yesterday (20th July) hosted some 50 editors and station managers to a workshop on ‘Accreditation, Ethics and Professionalism.
The workshop, held at the National Stadium Hostel in Freetown, presented participants with an opportunity to deliberate on whether there is a need for a system of accreditation for editors and station managers in Sierra Leone, the criteria for such accreditation and the institution to be charged with that responsibility.
The workshop participants deliberated on a draft report titled “Sierra Leone Media: Towards an Accreditation Regime for Editors and Station Managers, authored by researcher Tanu Jalloh.
Mr. Jalloh, himself an editor and part-time lecturer at the School of Mass Communications, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, had conducted a study on best practices for accreditation of editors and station managers in Sierra Leone, reviewing literature in countries such as the United Kingdom, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, among others.
Accordingly, he said the study’s aim “was to explore media accreditation arrangements across the world, especially in Africa, and to produce a report on best practices for accreditation of editors and broadcaster station managers.”
This is the first attempt by media stakeholders in Sierra Leone to create an advisory board of experienced media practitioners and academics to accredit editors and station managers based on ethics, social responsibility, media regulation and management, modeled on other media councils in Africa, albeit with unique features.
He said the proposed ‘Accreditation Board’ would “serve as a self-regulatory mechanism that is supervised and run by carefully selected team of media stakeholders.
Participants were unanimous that an ‘Accreditation Board’ is needed to determine, based on reasonable ethical and professional qualifications, as to who should be certified as an editor or station manager. They also agreed that representatives of the board should be drawn from representatives of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), local universities, media proprietors and the Guild of Editors.
However, participants reached consensus that more deliberations are needed to integrate the view, opinions and suggestions of all stakeholders, including women.
Meanwhile, during the opening ceremonies, statements were made by a host of media stakeholders, including SLAJ President Kevin Lewis; Chairman Independent Media Commission, Ambassador Allieu Kanu, MRCG Chairman, Francis Sowa; Chairman Guild of Editors, Donald Theo-Harding; National Coordinator of Independent Radio Network, Ransford Wright, and Manager for Media Development at UNDP, Hassan Jalloh.
Sowa stressed that the workshop was part of the holistic scheme of media reform agenda in Sierra Leone, while Wright noted that the emergence of citizen journalists has increased the need to put in place a system of accreditation to distinguish between professionals and non-professionals.
Also, Mr. Theo-Harding underscored that the creation of an ‘Accreditation Board’ could not have come at a right time in the wake of threats from citizen journalists, who he said pose an existential threat to journalism.
On his part, Ambassador Kanu opined that “a process of accreditation will go a long way in weeding out bad people from journalism – a noble profession.”
Lewis urged participants to embrace change by moving towards professional standards by ensuring that “gatekeepers” have the requisite qualification and experience, adding that journalism is a respectable profession that requires people with integrity.
“We in the SLAJ executive totally support this process and believe it would lead to a professional and respectable press,” Lewis said.