By Ishmael Dumbuya
The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) has on December 5, officially launched the State of the Media Report 2018-2021 at its head office on Circular Road, Freetown.
The report is a publication of the MRCG and the research was led by the Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies, University of Sierra Leone,with support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The Report is a continuation of the last edition published in 2018 which largely contained issues and events in 2017.
In his opening statement, Chairman of the Advisory Board of MRCG, Dr. Victor Massaquoi started off by expressing his gratitude to the secretariat and media practitioners present.
He went on to state that the State of the Media Report is a critical piece of research designed to test many questions bothering on human rights, freedom of expression, policy environment as well as ease of doing business in the media ecosystem of the country.
Dr. Massaquoi added that the report is rich in knowledge, information and contents.
“By several measures, the state of the media ecosystem has drastically improved between 2018-2021.Over the years many newspapers have been registered as well as radio stations,” he said.
He acknowledged that despite there were challenges in the media landscape in the country, the media still continue to thrive amidst the challenges.
The National Coordinator, MRCG, Dr. Francis Sowa, said the report shows that Sierra Leone in the past four years has made tremendous progress in the entire length of press freedom and freedom of expression ecosystem.
Dr. Sowa commended the repeal of Part V of the Public Order Act, 1965, which contained the offenses of Criminal and Seditious Libel. He added that the report also highlighted some challenges relating to the safety and security of journalists and investment in the media landscape as media poverty continues to affect the industry.
The coordinator indicated that the report presents a critical overview of the prospects and challenges in media freedom and development in Sierra Leone, with a special focus on the 2018-2021 periods as well as the media’s role in the country’s sustainable development pathways.
Joshua Nicol, a representative from the Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies, noted that since the inception of the MRCG, the Mass Communication Department, now Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies, has played a leading role in terms of putting together literatures for MRCG’s research.
He appreciated Dr. Sowa for taking the MRCG from a humble beginning to its present state. He added that the MRCG is a renowned institution not only in Sierra Leone, but across the West African Coast.
He continued to state that the document has closed a lot of critical gaps in the media literature of Sierra Leone. “Because back then when you want to do a research on Sierra Leone’s media system, you have to rely on literatures from outsiders, but with the presence of this document, it can help address those issues,” Nicol recalled.
He assured all present that the Faculty of Communication will always continue to play a leading role in MRCG’s research work.
In his official launch of the State of the Media Report, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, SLAJ, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla thanked everyone present and stated that the report was what the media ecosystem in Sierra Leone has always longed for and its launch was timely.
Nasralla firmly supported the claim that there are tremendous improvements in the media landscape of the country and that there are now training facilities for journalists as well as scholarships.
He continued that before assuming office, there were incidents of journalists being beaten up, cameras destroyed or confiscated. He however noted that he has been able to tackle some of those incidents as he has created a system of dialogue between the police and journalists. Thus, those incidents have stopped or curtailed.