By Amin Kef-Ranger
Led by its Director, Colonel Abu Bakarr Bah, the Media Wing of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) on the 7th July 2022 paid a courtesy call on the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), at the Association’s Headquarters on 56 Campbell Street in Freetown, with an objective to discuss emerging issues and to map out ways of strengthening the relationship between the two institutions.
Accompanying the Director were Major Jacob Bassie, Major Hassan Kamara, and Lt. Nahota Jenneh Bah.
According to Col. Bah, the media is very vital in nation-building maintaining that both the media and the military perform similar roles in serving public interest and are accountable to the public but said their responsibilities are different.
He disclosed how the purpose of their visit is to congratulate the newly-elected national and regional Executives of SLAJ and to start engagement on how the two institutions can build on their already existing cordial relationship toward nation-building and development.
Col. Bah also called on SLAJ to see how best the Association can accommodate the RSLAF media team who are graduates from the Faculty of Communication and Media Development at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, as members of SLAJ. He also requested capacity-building opportunities for his team to perform their roles and responsibilities effectively.
Col. Bah took the opportunity to comment on the issue of the unfortunate assault of journalist Maada Jessie Jengo of VOPAD Radio FM in Waterloo by soldiers and apologized on behalf of the RSLAF.
He disclosed that they have identified the alleged perpetrator who he claimed has shown remorse and visited the journalist and his family, and the radio station management. He said both parties are looking at ways of resolving the issue while the Military continues with its investigation to ensure such altercation does not repeat as both the media and the military need each other for better performance of their respective responsibilities.
Col. Bah further said the RSLAF is currently trying to build on the confidence of the public to earn the people’s trust particularly so when the country is preparing for the 2023 general elections, which success he noted depends on the support and collaboration of the media and security sector.
The Director of the RSLAF Media Unit said both RSLAF and SLAJ need to sensitize their members on how to treat and relate with one another and how best they can understand their roles and responsibilities while performing their various functions as the media need security to do their work effectively likewise the military need the media to inform the public about its operations and promote the image of the force.
“People should know what and what not to do,” he said, explaining that such will help both parties work effectively moving forward. He assured they will cascade the information at all levels within the RSLAF on how to treat members of the public and the media, and the need for the media to educate the public about the roles and responsibilities of the military.
In response, SLAJ President Ahmed Sahid Nasralla said the Association is honoured to receive the RSLAF media team on a courtesy call and stressed the need for such meetings to strengthen cordial relations, cooperation, and support between the institutions.
“There is every need for us to work together, the Army, the Police, and the Media, and support one another in the interest of our nation. I want to see a situation where the public will see us working together amicably with respect and a shared goal to ensure the safety and security of the electorate, including politicians generally, on the one hand, and free, fair, non-violent, transparent, and credible elections come 2023,” said Nasralla.
The SLAJ President noted there is a need for both institutions to continue to support one another as the elections are coming closer, and cited the assault of the journalist as unfortunate in light of the Memorandum of Understanding SLAJ signed with the Security Sector in November 2021.
“The MoU with the security sector is a huge step towards strengthening media-security relations and promoting cooperation and coordination. It’s a big opportunity that is not common in most African countries, and even the world. What we have not yet done, however, is to ensure every member of our institutions is aware of the content of the MoU, its objectives, and the relationship we are trying to forge to prevent conflict and promote both our images and the work that we do. I think that should be the next step we should take, and then organize continuous training sessions to build our capacities and address emerging issues,” said Nasralla.
On the requests of the RSLAF team, Nasralla said another membership drive will begin in the next couple of months and it is open to media practitioners who meet the criteria. He said membership in SLAJ is voluntary and encouraged the RSLAJ media officers to apply when the process opens.
“In SLAJ we have lawyers, police, MPs, academics, teachers, accountants, footballers, musicians, religious leaders; in fact, all walks of life. And so we will welcome military members with a media background,” said Nasralla, adding that once you are a member, and you are committed, and up-to-date with your dues you are eligible to benefit from training opportunities.
Credit CALABASH NEWSPAPER