MRCG Concludes One-day Police-Media Dialogue Forum on Elections

By Foday Moriba Conteh

As part of continuous efforts towards strengthening the relationship between the Media and the Sierra Leone Police in the country, the Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) with support for International Media Support (IMS), has on Monday 19th June, 2023, concluded a one-day Regional Police-Media Dialogue Forum on Elections. The one-day forum, which brought together media practitioners from various media institutions and police personnel in the country, was held at the Cabenda Hotel on Signal Hill in Freetown.

In his Chairman opening remarks, the Chairman of the Independent Media Commission, Dr. Victor Massaquoi, described the Forum as very important towards cementing the relationship between the Media and the Sierra Leone Police.

He said the safety and protection of journalists are critical for the democratic culture of Sierra Leone, adding that there are many ways journalists can be protected which he said include State organs  and functionaries providing access to information for journalists.

Dr. Victor Massaquoi said verbal and physical abuses should not be meted on journalists of which he said the Commission treats this as very serious issue. He , however, called on media practitioners to behave professionally and responsibly in carrying out their duties.

He concluded by assuring that the Independent Media Commission and others right-based organizations will ensure that journalists are protected supported but at the same time will hold journalists accountable of their activities.

Addressing the gathering, the National Coordinator of the Media Reform Coordinating Group, Dr. Francis Sowa said that a couple of weeks ago the International Media Support (IMS) visited Sierra Leone and during their visit they engaged various institutions including the Sierra Leone Police, adding that from the consultations they had what came out clearly was a call for the Police-Media Dialogue Forum to be held.

He said that a Police-Media Dialogue Forum was last held in Sierra Leone in 2018 and that during the consultations both the media practitioners and the Sierra Leone Police suggested that the Forum must be held again especially when the country is gearing towards the June 24, 2023 General Elections.

Dr. Francis Sowa said that even though since 2018 when the forum was last held there has been marked improvement between the Police-Media Relation in terms of the number of Committees formed, including the Safety and Security Coordination Committee.

He pointed out that the aim of the Forum is to continue to strengthen the relationship between the Media and the Sierra Leone Police, adding that when both institutions perform their various duties they need each other and in that regard there must be cordial relationship between them  which the Forum is ready to establish.

Speaking on behalf of the Sierra Leone Police, the Deputy Head Community Relations Department, Sierra Leone Police, Samuel S. Conteh, said that Police-Media Dialogue Forum is very key to the Sierra Leone Police owing to the fact that the media and the Sierra Leone Police are two main prominent institutions that play very significant roles in the economic development of the country.

He said that the media is responsible to inform the public and that when a society is well informed there will be very peaceful and professional citizens, adding that the Sierra Leone Police is responsible to protect and save the lives and properties of people.

Samuel S. Conteh maintained that the Police-Media Dialogue Forum bee will continue to strengthen the collaboration between the media and the Sierra Leone Police in the country.

Other stakeholders including the Director of Information at the Ministry of Information and Communication, Emmanuel Turay, the Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) also made salient points.

The opening session was followed by discussions and presentations which include ,Police-Media Relations: challenges and opportunities for collaboration on covering elections and the preparation of the Sierra Leone Police Service so far in ensuring peaceful elections by the Sierra Leone Police, rights and responsibilities of journalists by the Independent Media Commission etc.

These presentations were also followed by group (comprising both police and media) discussions and identification of concrete modalities for Police-Media collaboration and mechanisms for ensuring safety of journalists in the electioneering period.

At the end of the group presentations resolutions captured were adopted which climaxed the end of the Forum.


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