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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora