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NERC CEO bemoans social media

- says it poses challenges to Ebola fight

January 16, 2015 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) has said the mainstream media has played a great role in the fight to eradicate the Ebola virus in the country, but expressed dissatisfaction with social media where, according to him, people post wrong information.

Rtd. Major Alfred Palo Conteh was speaking at a one-day seminar organized by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) for their national monitors on monitoring and reporting Ebola virus related massages across the country.

He said President Ernest Bai Koroma appointed him Chief Executive Officer of NERC on special assignment to coordinate activities relating to the Ebola response in the country, adding that at the time he took over there were few treatment and holding centres with insufficient bed capacity to treat or hold sick patients from communities across the country, which he said undermined efforts to contain the virus.

He revealed that those difficult days are gone as beds promised by the British and those erected by the government and other organizations were ready and functional.

He said over 900 beds are now available in treatment centres to care for Ebola confirmed cases across the country.

“When I assumed office as CEO for NERC, we had about five functional labs in the country and we were still struggling to have labs in the north. I am delighted to report to you all that we now have 11 functional laboratories in the country with three in the north and six in the Western Area,” the NERC boss said. “I want to express thanks to the British Royal Engineers and other partners that are in the country helping in the fight against Ebola.”

Chairperson of the Independent Media Commission, Ambassador Allieu Kanu, said that since he assumed office, yesterday was his first engagement with IMC field monitors and the reconstituted Board.

He pledged that he and board members would fully commit themselves to active monitoring of media contents across the country, adding that the Commission has encouraged the growth and expansion of community radio stations nationwide. He also revealed that the board was working on increasing the number of field based media monitors.

The IMC Chairperson said, in a bid to effectively and efficiently monitor Ebola messages on radio stations across the country, they have developed Ebola reporting guidelines for journalists, which according to him, were extensively used by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and the BBC Media Action in their engagement with journalists across the country.

Also, Commissioner Patricia Ganda said the IMC envisions promoting professionalism in the media in Sierra Leone.

Ms. Ganda said that in an attempt to keep an eye on the media for effective regulation and policy development, the Commission in 2008 recruited a team of national monitors that were drawn from all the 12 districts.

She said the media is an indispensable tool to educate the public on the dangers of Ebola, hence the Commission had identified the need for monitoring Ebola massages aired by media institutions.

She said the one-day seminar would accord IMC field monitors the opportunity to inform the public about their continuous monitoring activities, adding that the latter would undergo refresher training in a bid to enhance sustained monitoring of the Ebola reportage in the local media.

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