February 3, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
Country Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) in Sierra Leone, Joe H. Pemagbie, has encouraged staff of Radio Democracy to continue to be independent and objective in their work.
“The temptations will come and there will be intimidation from people from all quarters, but you must stand your ground, be objective and work in the interest of the people of this country,” said Pemagbie during a one-day OSIWA-sponsored training of Radio Democracy’s program production staff held at SLAJ headquarters, Campbell Street, Freetown on Thursday.
He said the training couldn’t have come at a better time because Sierra Leone is faced with a huge challenge of ensuring that her fledgling democracy is deepened and broadened to an extent that every Sierra Leonean feels part of the governance structures and processes.
“As a nation a lesson we should learn from this Ebola scourge is that our institutions and processes should be strengthened to the extent that they are transparent and accountable for all to see,” he said.
Pemagbie said OSIWA believes the media plays a very key role in promoting democracy and human rights.
“Our support to Radio Democracy is therefore not an accident at all. It’s a deliberate effort to ensure that we contribute to deepening and broadening democracy in Sierra Leone,” he said.
He recalled that a couple of years ago when Radio Democracy approached them for institutional support to increase their coverage beyond the Western Area, one of the key questions they asked was ‘how will Radio Democracy sustain itself after our initial support’?
So far the station has been striving to survive under stiff competition, declining commercial activities and huge running costs.
Pemagbie said Radio Democracy provides the opportunity for people from all spheres of life to express their views and opinions on issues, especially on the day to day dealings that affect their lives.
OSIWA, an advocacy and ground-making foundation with a mission to build open societies and spaces in Africa, believes that people’s participation in governance is key and that democracies have to be vibrant enough to an extent that people from all sectors of life are held accountable and that there are opportunities for equitable economic structures and processes and where rule of law reigns supreme.
It was based on these beliefs that OSIWA supported Radio Democracy about three years ago to expand their coverage beyond the Western Area. However, it didn’t happen then. But late last year OSIWA Board provided some institutional support again to ensure the station broaden its coverage or reach to help deepen the tenets of democracy, which include freedom of information and expression that are core values of OSIWA.
The training follows plans by the station to relocate to their new studio house at New Englandville and to expand its coverage span to at least 60% of Sierra Leone, reaching all district headquarter towns.
“Coverage expansion also requires that we meet radio programme needs of other communities,” said Station Manager, Asmaa Kamara James. “Therefore, it is essential that the programme production staffs are trained, our existing programmes reviewed and revamped to meet the expected expansion.”
According to Asmaa, the training was structured to meet these objectives and that as an independent institution they require core support to be able to focus on their mandate, especially in such difficult economic environment as well as competition from other media outlets.
Board Member, Dr. Julius Spencer, urged the staffs to take the training seriously and acquire more skills and more knowledge to do their work better.
“Even though you are doing a good job there are still areas that need improvement,” said Dr. Spencer, urging the staff further to ensure that they put what they learn into practice.
The training areas include presentation skills, programming and the law, radio news coverage (interviewing, cues and packaging) and thematic radio discussion on public issues.
Asmaa hopes that the training will provide improved and innovative programmes to meet the needs of listeners, advertisers, government, policy makers, civil society and the public at large.
Radio Democracy, broadcasting on frequency 98.1 FM, currently only reaches the Western Area, parts of Port Loko, Kambia and Moyamba. It now broadcasts online and has over 12,000 followers on Facebook. Popular for its ‘Good Morning Salone’ program, it is perhaps the most listened radio station during the morning hours. The station boasts about 18 staffs- 12 production and 3 volunteers.
Their new building is expected to be completed in March this year.
Established as a clandestine radio in 1997 during the infamous AFRC interregnum, Radio Democracy was very instrumental in restoring constitutional authority in Sierra Leone.
Credit: Development & Economic Journalists Association Sierra Leone (DEJA-SL).