The theme of the seminar: Managing the Press Effectively and Professionally – was rolled out first in Freetown at the headquarters of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) with newspaper editors, radio and television station managers in attendance. The one-day Freetown seminar was followed up by similar ones in Makeni, Bo and Kenema respectively.
In his keynote address in Makeni the Minister of Information and Communications Mohamed Rado Swaray called on the media to be more responsible. He said that the press has yet to achieve professionalism as there were still many complaints made at the Independent Media Commission against newspapers and in particular community radio stations.
The minister informed his audience that the necessary legal works that will empower the IMC to effectively carry out its mandate are now being processed by the law department office. Mr. Mohamed Rado Swaray went on to assure journalists of the government of His Excellency Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio’s full support to the media and commitment to repealing the Part 5 of the criminal libel law before end of the year. He commended the IMC for organising such useful professional training for media personnel in the country.
In his address at the various venues of the seminar, the Chairman of IMC, George S. Khoryama said they were in the provinces to introduce the new Commissioners of the IMC to the people on the one hand, and in fulfillment of the Commission’s mandate to conduct seminar for the media with the view to ensuring that media institutions achieve the highest level of efficiency in the provision of their media services on the other hand.
He informed the audience that the IMC is being inundated with complaints from the public on account of defamatory and libelous publications. The essence of the seminar therefore was to begin to prepare the media for responsible journalism against the post criminal libel law days when defaulting journalists will be taken to court and the consequences thereof.
He disclosed that the IMC Annual Award Night is to be revived this year after years of being dormant. He urged media institutions and individual journalists to begin to sharpen their reporting skills for the competition.
At the various seminar proper under the theme: Managing the Press Effectively and Professionally, commissioners gave talks on topics such as Management Tips for Effective Administration of Media Houses that was delivered by Dr. Francis Sowa. In his 30 minutes presentation, Commissioner Dr. Sowa talked about the importance of financial management of media institutions that happens to be absent in many media houses in the country.
Dr. Sowa called for division of labour in media houses to ensure accountability and transparency. Editors or Managing Editors in media houses, he said, in most cases do everything which results in poor management, poor working condition for journalists including poor salaries.
In his talk: Self-Regulation of the Media, Commissioner Dr. Victor Suma called on the media practitioners to strive for advancement and excellence in their career and never to stand still. He called on journalists to take a retrospection of their years in the profession and reckon what have they achieved or not so far.
He said journalists should uphold their own values and those of their profession in the discharge of their duties with the view of not becoming praise singers of politicians and other influential people in the society. In his conclusion Dr. Suma asked a question and let the journalists go and think about it: He said there is one business house in Freetown that gives out advertisement to almost all newspapers in the country. “In the event that business house falls out with the law could you report it?” He asked.
Commissioner Mustapha Mende-Koko Sesay had his talk centered on the Media Code of Practice. He took journalists through the processes of application and registration of newspapers, radio and television, licenses, complaints and complaint hearings, renewal of licenses, fines, retraction, apologies and punishments.
Commissioner Mustapha reminded the media practitioners present that failure by any media institution to comply with the media code of practice leaves the IMC with the mandate to impose fines, suspend or even close the media house found wanting.
Frank Talk and Exchange between IMC and Journalists was handled by Commissioner Ansu B. Lansana, Esq. During all the session journalists asked questions about issues discussed and freely expressed their emotions about the profession.
Various stakeholders including Resident Ministers, Provincial Secretaries or their representative, Assistant Inspector-Generals (AIGs), Military Officers, Paramount Chiefs, and other dignitaries in all the provinces graced each seminar opening and made statements.
The team had earlier paid courtesy calls on all the stakeholders preceding the seminar proper.