By Hassan G. Koroma
Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee has on Tuesday (11th March) said the media has a great role to play in the constitutional review process to amend the Constitution of Sierra Leone, 1991.
Justice Edmond K. Cowan was speaking in a day training session at Miatta Conference Centre, organised by the Committee, in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on the theme ‘Ethical and Objective Reporting on the Constitutional Review Process’ for media practitioners.
The CRC Chairman, who is also Ombudsman, said the training was appropriate because the Committee is poised to commence civic education and public consultations and that it would rely on members of the media to disseminate messages throughout the country.
He said that giving the diverse nature of society it was crucial that the communication strategy they would employ attract public attention to the review process, in a very consistent manner, with clarity and precision so as to establish trust among the populace.
He said their work would be more effectiveness if there is a very good listening audience and that it requires focus and energy to be able to reach out to the desired audience for better understanding of the process and reduction of doubt from those people.
“You should not only imbibe the knowledge that the training offers, but see it as an opportunity to strengthen your own capacity in reporting on constitutional matters, and it is my view that knowledge gained will remain with you even after the process has elapsed,” he said.
He said that the CRC views the communication strategy as one of the key deliverables of the review process and that it was imperative that the strategy explains their work, manage public expectations, and ensure that regular updates are provided to the public, key stakeholders and create trust on the review process.
On his part, the UNDP acting Country Director, Dr. Mohamed Abchir said the agency recognizes the important role the media played during past challenges, and its contribution to laying the foundations of peace which Sierra Leone enjoys today.
He said the constitution is owned by and applies to all citizens of Sierra Leone equally, thus it should be understood by everyone.
“As members of the Fourth Estate, their role is pivotal in this historical national process as the outcome will surely influence and promote social justice, peace, development and conflict prevention mechanisms to avoid [a] repeat of socio-political violence in the country,” he said.
He said the constitutional review process offers a perfect opportunity to consolidate and safeguard Sierra Leone’s hard-won gains over the years, and that if managed well, would strengthen the culture of democracy and help to develop a tradition of the rule of law and meaningful participation in decision making.
“The constitutional review is a unique process because it gives opportunity for the voices of people to be heard as such stakeholders are being engaged and mobilized to take part and however it is also recognized that the participation of groups of stakeholders to be effective it need to be well informed and coordinated,” he said.