Sierra Leone: ‘’There is no story worth dying for,’’ Dr Francis Sowa Tells Journalists

By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma

Dr. Francis Sowa speaking to journalists at GGEM Conference Hall

The National Coordinator of the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Dr. Francis Sowa, admonished journalists to be careful about their safety and security whenever they are in the line of duty, urging them that ‘’ there is no story worth dying for’’.

Speaking to journalists last Friday 20th May, 2023,  during a one day national forum on media professionalism and the safety of journalists, organised by the Media Reform Coordinating Group and the Media Foundation for West Africa, with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (Ghana), Dr. Francis Sowa said  that as media development organisation, it is their desire to see journalists cover their stories and return to their respective media houses safely, urging them  that if they see danger  in their line of work, they must try  to avoid those scenes, especially in hostile and volatile environment.

Dr. Francis Sowa furthered that even BBC journalists and other international media houses are very conscious about their safety and security, owing to the volatile and difficult situation they can find themselves at times, noting that sometimes a reporter can be in South Africa and report on issues going on in Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.

‘’A recent example is the current Ukraine war, there are instances, whether its BBC or CNN, or Aljazeera or whatever media institution, where they do not report at the scene, when the event takes place. Which means, you don’t need to chase the story at all cost. If you can do so, it will be fine, but where you see that there will problems; move away,’’ Dr. Francis Sowa added.

Dr. Sowa maintained that the one-day workshop that was held for the media practitioners, was an implementation of the previous recommendations of their 2020 media report, adding that part of it was regular and continuous training of media practitioners on safety and security issues in the country.

‘’Those recommendations will keep the report alive. They keep the discourse alive, which means we will go back and look at the 2020 report, see how we can improve on it, and do some update on it. Take some of the issue that has come up and add them. For me, it is one of the most important part of the workshop. Those findings, those recommendations we will take them forward,’’ Dr. Sowa added.

The MRCG boss revealed that they are done with the safety and security policy after years of developing it, adding that their next move is to share it with media houses to develop their own in-house safety and security guidelines.

On his part, Dr. Tonya Musa, Senior Lecturer of the Faculty of Communications at Fourah Bay College, whilst dilating on conflict sensitive reporting, urged journalists and media practitioners to be independent whenever they are doing their job.

‘’ The other aspect of your personal safety is the colours you use, especially at times like this. You have, for now, to keep away from those sensitive political colours, so that you might not be misconstrued or interpreted,’’ he urged.

Dr. Musa also urged journalists to be careful about their social media presence and conversation, stating that media professionals are influential, as much is expected from them.

‘’Now when politicians post, you know that they are politicians. Your business is to read as much as possible to know the angles, to know the perspectives, to know the followers and then to know what they are saying. Stay away from likes, stay away from shares, stay away from comments. To do otherwise means you have already identified yourself. Again, as we speak now, people are adding us without seeking our consent, and if you’re there, be quiet,’’ Dr. Musa further urged.

One of the participants of the one-day workshop, Patrick Yatta Conteh of Radio Mount Aureol -CTN, praised the Media Reform Coordinating Group and Media Foundation for West Africa for such an important workshop, adding that as the country is moving into elections in June, this engagement is timely for journalists.

‘’This is a reminder training for us that no story is worth dying for, and we should be ever careful whenever we are out to get stories. As journalists, our job is risky, we need to know our limit and to be mindful of our security. Almost all the facilitators stressed on the importance of one’s personal safety and to be aware of oneself in the line of duty,’’ Patrick Yatta Conteh stressed.








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