AYV News May 25, 2023
Claire Buckley, Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone
Ireland, through its Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Claire Buckley, has assured its first grant partnership with a consortium consisting of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Independent Media Commission, Independent Radio Network and the Inter Religious Council Sierra Leone.
Ambassador Buckley highlighted the significance of this project as part of Ireland’s commitment to supporting credible, inclusive, and peaceful elections in the upcoming weeks, with only about 29 days remaining until the voting day.
Referring to the specific recommendations made by the European Union 2018 Election Observation Mission, she emphasised the need to strengthen the media’s ability to report on elections independently, impartially, and professionally.
The project she said aims to contribute to this objective.
Ambassador Buckley expressed her regret over incidents of electoral violence that have occurred since the 2018 elections, including those during by-elections and other events. She stressed the collective responsibility to work harder and do better to ensure violence-free elections in 2023.
In her opinion, the presence of the right media and faith-based institutions at the event was promising for the progress of this work.
“This project is one part of Ireland’s support to the holding of credible, inclusive and peaceful elections in the coming weeks. We must all do better, work harder to ensure violence-free elections in 2023,” she said.
The ambassador emphasised Ireland’s belief in the fundamental role of a free, impartial, and independent media for a thriving democracy.
She stated that the media informs and mobilizes citizens for meaningful debates while holding those in power accountable.
This commitment aligns with Ireland’s broader goal of strengthening citizens’ participation in democratic processes and institutions.
Acknowledging the increased tensions in Sierra Leone influenced by hate speech, fake news, and misinformation, particularly through social media, she underscored the critical role of the media and faith-based organisations like the Inter-Religious Council.
Together, they can redirect citizens towards the free and peaceful exchange of ideas and provide credible and reliable information on the electoral process.
She expressed her belief that the project would shift the focus of the elections discourse towards policies rather than personalities and promote substance over regional and tribal rhetoric.
Furthermore, she hoped it would facilitate effective coverage, enhance overall transparency, and maintain the integrity of the electoral process by promoting diverse viewpoints across political divides.
“We believe that this project will contribute to focusing the elections discourse on policies rather than personality, substance rather than regional and tribal rhetoric. We hope it will support effective coverage and overall transparency as well as the integrity of the electoral process, including promoting the plurality of views across political divides.
Most important of all, we believe that it will promote media engagement in the elections in an independent, impartial and professional manner,” she said.
The ambassador highlighted Ireland’s previous support for the establishment of Nyapui Radio in Kenema, the first radio station dedicated solely to promoting women in the eastern part of the country.
She acknowledged the instrumental role the radio station has played in advancing women’s political and development aspirations.
The event marked the official commencement of a broader engagement with key media institutions in Sierra Leone, including SLAJ, IMC, IRN, and the Inter-Religious Council. This demonstrates Ireland’s recognition of the media’s crucial role in promoting democratic good governance, particularly free, fair, credible, peaceful and inclusive elections.
Buckley acknowledged that this project complements the ongoing and planned support provided to the media by other donor partners, including the EU, UK, US, and UNDP.