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

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid