News / Africa

Sierra Leone Starts New Method of Monitoring Radio Stations

Communications student Mohamed Alpha Ba, 21, poses for a picture in the studio of the radio station he volunteers with, at Sierra Leone's prestigious Fourah Bay College in the capital Freetown, November 2012.
Communications student Mohamed Alpha Ba, 21, poses for a picture in the studio of the radio station he volunteers with, at Sierra Leone's prestigious Fourah Bay College in the capital Freetown, November 2012.
A new system to monitor media outlets has been implemented in Sierra Leone. While some say this will help improve reporting in the country, others worry it may censor journalists.
 
Like many reporters worldwide, journalists in Sierra Leone spend countless hours typing away at scripts and chasing down sources for stories. Reporters here tend to lack credibility, however, and so the country's Independent Media Commission [IMC] has decided to address the problem.

The IMC, which is separate from the government, regulates media in the African country. The commission has a code that states journalists should be objective in their reporting and keep themselves free from government or opposition control.

IMC Commissioner Augustine Garmoh said coverage of the 2012 presidential election showed many Sierra Leone journalists are not following the code. He said several radio stations gave more air time to certain parties, or sometimes only interviewed the ruling party and did not give opposition a chance to go on the air.
 
"During elections we realized, most journalists, most media institutions, were divided among party lines. We saw the issue of objectivity eroded. So we realized even the reportage, the quality of reports, were skewed towards particular directions," said Garmoh.
 
As a result, Garmoh said the IMC has launched a pilot project using a new media monitoring system called Stirlitz.
 
Fifteen radio stations in Freetown, the country's capital, are being monitored by the IMC. The United Nations Development Program [UNDP] is helping to support the project financially and technically.
 
Newspapers already are being monitored through the IMC using a different type of software to enter content data into a system.
 
Hasson Jalloh is the project manager of media development with the UNDP. He said the system, which logs audio, video and metadata, will be useful if journalists are accused of making errors in their reports. "It is helpful because always you have a reference point, that in case there is some infringement you can always come back to past recordings and have evidence of what was actually recorded."
 
The software also has been used in Ghana and Nigeria and worked well there, he said.  
 
Kelvin Lewis, the president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, sees the monitoring system as a dual-edged sword. He said on the one hand it will help reduce reckless reporting, but on the other... "It could be used to cower journalists into watering down their stories, into making sure they do not talk about things they believe would affect the government."
 
A news reader at Cotton Tree News in Freetown, John-John Whitfield, said the idea is not so bad. “I am not that much worried. I would be worried if I am not going through the right path. As I told you, I have the IMC [media code]. It is my bible. It restricts me from certain things, and it guides me to do certain things. Once I know I am working in line with what my bible tells me, I am not worried."
 
Another Cotton Tree News journalist, Tamba Tengbeh, said journalists should not be afraid to be critical of the government. "You just have to be bold enough and challenge people in position and hold them accountable for certain things."
 
Garmoh insists the IMC does not want journalists to feel intimidated or censor themselves, especially when reporting on the government. He said they should see this as a tool to improve their reporting.
 
"It is actually not a way to muzzle the press, not in a way to be a policeman, to be a watchdog. We are basically making sure there is peace in this country," said Garmoh.
 
According to Reporters Without Borders, Sierra Leone ranks as 62nd out of 179 countries in press freedom this year. Finland has the top ranking.

As for what happens with the information IMC documents, it will all be archived on Stirlitz at the IMC building.
 
It also will be used as a teaching tool, said Garmoh. "We also want to use this for research purposes, because we have the University of Sierra Leone and other colleges around the country doing mass communications. We believe that they will be able to use the facility to come and look at archived documents, archived documentaries, archived programs of various radio stations and be able to make very good use of it."
 
He said the pilot project will last until end of the year, and then the hope is to have a national system in place using the software to monitor all radio and television stations in Sierra Leone.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More