That process, he said has led to the review of the IMC Act and IMC Code of Practice. Those documents he added had been presented to the Ministry of Information and Communication which has submitted them to the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
However, “We call on the Office of the Attorney General to fast-track the process of enacting the new IMC laws, with specific reference to the Code of Practice,” he ascertained adding that the session will further help in popularizing the contents of the new IMC Code of Practice which includes new breaches like “Character Assassination, Threats, Abuse and Decency, and ensuring that media owners who employ journalists issue them letters of appointment stating conditions of service with a salary and allowances that reflect the journalist’s qualification and experience as provided for by the Labor Laws of Sierra Leone. Such employer, he said, must also register their journalists with the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) in accordance with the Act.
“The new IMC Code contains reviewed fines and tougher actions against journalists and media houses that continuously breach the provisions in the Code. The review was undertaken by IMC, SLAJ and other key stakeholders as part of the activities of MRCG funded by UNDP” he said.
Giving a background to MRCG, Sowa maintained that it was established in May 2014 to strengthen democratic dialogue, consolidate peace and ensure development through professional, independent and sustainable media based on the right to freedom of speech.
Its vision, he said, was to ensure a credible, economically viable and well-focused media in Sierra Leone. The MRCG comprises key stakeholders from national media organisations, policy-making bodies and academic institutions in the country such as; the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Department of Mass Communication, Fourah Bay College (FBC, Mass Comm.), the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC), Guild of Newspaper Editors (GoNE), Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL), Independent Radio Network (IRN), Sierra Leone Reporters Union (SLRU) and Cotton Tree News (CTN).
The Organization was established with funds from the UNDP to act as the key driver of media reform agenda in Sierra Leone.
Commissioner Sowa disclosed that the key priorities and objective of MRCG are to improve ethics of the media through regulatory or self-regulatory mechanisms, promoting transparent and independent allocation of licenses, handling of complaints and stimulating an enabling regulatory and political environment for professional and pluralistic media; sustainable and independent public service broadcasting serving all the people of the country; strengthened professionalism and sustainability of organizations and improved people’s participation in media development and content.
Presentation on why journalists need to worry about ethics was presented by the Head of Mass Communication Fourah Bay College Hindolo Tonia Musa.
The training was climaxed with a question and answer session. Editors were given the opportunity to ask questions for clarification and they also made comments and observations on the importance of the new IMC Law.
As commissioners from the established IMC committees were at the training session to allay the fears of journalists as well as demystifying the misconceptions of certain provisions in both the current and the forthcoming IMC media code of practice/ethics, in order to ensure decency and tasteful journalism in Sierra Leone.