By Foday Moriba Conteh
In a bid to enhance professional journalism and a more viable relationship with media readership, audiences and voters during elections in the country, the Independent Media Commission (IMC) has on Tuesday 5th July, 2022 held a one-day Consultation meeting with stakeholders, Station Managers and Newspaper Editors in the Western Urban and Rural areas on the Draft Independent Media Commission (IMC) Elections Reporting Guidelines. The one-day Consultation session was held at Kona Lodge on King Street, Signal Hill in the West end of Freetown.
Present at the session were representatives of Station Managers and Newspaper Editors from different media houses, the Sierra Leone Police, Human Rights Commission, Office of National Security, Ministry of Information and Communications, Rights to Access Information, National Commission for Democracy etc.
In his statement, the National Coordinator of the Independent Radio Network, Ransford Wright, commended the Independent Media Commission for convening the Consultation session on the Draft Elections Reporting Guidelines.
He said the recommendations of the election observer mission highlighted some of the flaws and lapses related to media regulations disclosing how as a result of that the National Electoral Commission, now referred to as the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, in putting together all their recommendations highlighted that the areas where recommendations relating to the media were made, the IMC needs to do something regarding those recommendations.
Ransford Wright pointed out that the consultation session on the Draft Elections Reporting Guidelines is done along that direction furthering how the IMC cannot put together the Elections Reporting Guidelines without holding such a session also adding that convening such a session makes the process inclusive.
The Chairman of the Guild of Newspaper Editors, Theo Harding, stated that the media is expected to set the highest standards in terms of accuracy, fairness, balance and impartiality of which he considered the consultation session as very important towards achieving that goal.
He said he is of the strong conviction that the set of Guidelines will help ensure professional journalism and a more viable relationship with media readership, audiences and voters.
Representing the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the Financial Secretary of the Association, Mohamed Konneh, maintained that the guidelines have been developed by the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and media stakeholders including SLAJ ,giving due regard to the important role that the media plays in promoting democracy, peace and good governance.
He informed all that the guidelines make provisions for fair, adequate and equitable media coverage during elections and called on journalists present to make meaningful inputs towards the Draft Elections Reporting Guidelines in order to have better guidelines at the end of the day.
Opening the session, the Chairman of IMC, Dr Victor Massaquoi said one of the central functions of the Commission is to professionally develop media practitioners in the country, adding that with the proliferation of Radio, TV stations and Newspapers, plus the social media, enhanced by the overabundance of accusations of character assassinations and hasty reporting with limited or concocted facts leveled at some media practitioners in the last 5 years, the need to develop, consult and produce election coverage guidelines is timely and relevant.
He pointed out that they want the guidelines to be steeped in context, rich in content and crystal in clarity, so that when journalists cover an election, they do so accurately and produce balanced, fair and credible reports and analysis, furthering that the Commission wants to assure all that the IMC believes in consultation, participation and quality result, which is going to be reflected in the final document.
The Chairman also used the opportunity to give the following assurances of which he said the IMC will ensure the media is monitored for quality content and efficiency, to ensure that the interest of the public is protected; ensure that the minimum wage and other legal obligations are complied with by media organizations but expressed hope that reporters are not conniving with Managing Editors to submit doctored documents to the IMC, that the IMC will ensure its independence is maintained and finally that the IMC will ensure the development of its staff and media practitioners.
The Chairman stated that the Commission will continue to implement its four strategic objectives: monitoring, regulation; capacity building and resource mobilization, adding that they will continue to rebrand, improve on relevance and provide professional support to the media.
“So as you are here today, I crave your active participation, networking and ensure your contributions are meaningful and rich,” he concluded.