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PRESS RELEASE: SLAJ concerned over BBC Media Action activities

DECEMBER 17, 2014

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) is concerned about the activities and intentions of the international non-governmental organization – BBC Media Action – in Sierra Leone, especially as it claims to be strengthening the capacity of local media partners.

SLAJ believes that if any organization honestly wants to help develop the media in Sierra Leone, they will work with existing local media structures and not creating parallel ones that will tend to destroy the very media they purport to be strengthening.

It was the understanding of SLAJ that the BBC Media Action had come into the country with an operational mandate to strengthen the capacity of local media partners through training, mentoring and supplying of equipment. However, it has come to the notice of SLAJ that BBC Media Action is not only now developing their own programmes, which they convince vulnerable radio stations to broadcast, they are also poaching quality staff of local stations; a practice that has the potential of crippling such stations.

Having initially realized this danger, the Executive of SLAJ on 1st October, 2014 convened a meeting with the management of BBC Media Action to explain to the Association their operational mandate, and to discuss how they can contribute to developing the media in Sierra Leone. BBC Media Action affirmed that their focus is development and strengthening of the media and not competition.

In spite of such assurances by BBC Media Action to support media development in the country, it has come to the attention of SLAJ that – by their operational model – the organization is not here to empower the local media but to cripple them.

We consider it unethical for BBC Media Action to have radio stations as partners and then employing trained and qualified staff from these radio stations to work for them. BBC Media Action is also developing parallel radio programmes and persuading radio stations to broadcast them instead of empowering them to design and develop theirs. BBC Media Action is equally killing programming in these radio stations thereby promoting dependence on the organization for so-called professionally produced programmes.

SLAJ is also concerned that BBC Media Action as well as other NGOs are conducting media trainings without the involvement of SLAJ, whose members such trainings are mostly targeting. We are concerned that the contents being taught in some of these trainings are having no impact on the professional development of these journalists mainly because some of the facilitators used to conduct the trainings are inexperienced.

“BBC Media Action should tell the people of this country what they’ve come to do in Sierra Leone. We want to see cooperational operation and not operational competition,” said SLAJ president Kelvin Lewis.

Meanwhile, at a meeting held on Friday 12 October, 2014 between radio station managers and SLAJ, it was resolved that all media trainings meant for local journalists should be conducted through SLAJ/IRN.

Moses A. Kargbo

National Secretary General

+232 33 421350 / +232 76 345930

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