By Millicent Senava Mannah
The Media Reform Coordinating Group Sierra Leone (MRCG-SL), with support from the Africa Transitional Justice Legacy Fund (ATJLF), on 13th October 2022organized a Regional Training for journalists on Transitional Justice. Theme of the training, which was held at the Harry Yansanneh Hall on Campbell Street in Freetown was: “Changing the Narrative on Transitional Justice in Sierra Leone.
Giving an overview of the training, the National Coordinator of the Media Reform Coordinating Group Sierra Leone, Dr. Francis Sowa, intimated that the training is geared towards engaging the media and communities to change the narrative on Transitional Justice Issues in Sierra Leone with a focus on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations. He mentioned that a similar training has also been done in Makeni and Bo for media practitioners.
He continued that the reason they undertook such a project was that some of the issues that led to the civil war in the country have started reoccurring and, according to him, media practitioners have not been adequately reporting issues related to transitional justice.
Dr. Sowa noted that, the aim of the project is to change the narrative on transitional justice issues by using two mechanisms. He furthered that the first one is by working with the media for it to be reporting transitional justice issues, and secondly, by also engaging in community meetings.
He disclosed that the project worked well in the Mile 91 community, where Radio Baft is engaged in doing monthly radio programs on transitional justice, as well as having community engagements.
“We had this training in the South and Eastern regions for journalists in the North and Northwest regions, and today we are having it in the Western area, and after this, the next part of engaging in this transitional justice discourse is to develop or put together a team of mentees that will be working with mentors producing stories on transitional justice,” Dr. Sowa revealed.
He pointed out that the beneficiaries were trained and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills for them to go and demonstrate how transitional justice work affirming that the trainers are people who have the requisite experience.
President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Sahid Nasralla applauded the MRCG for rolling out such a training and encouraged journalists to take the training seriously as reporting on transitional justice issues is very key for the peace of the nation.
He advised journalists to be reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and how they should be making references to the Report while reporting issues about transitional justice maintaining that after the training, they should be reporting TJ issues to raise awareness among citizens.
Dr. Tonya Musa, Lecturer of the FBC Mass Communication Department who was one of the trainers, taught Transitional Justice Mechanisms, Media and Transitional Justice defining transitional justice as how society responds to legacies of massive and serious human rights violations.
He said after the ten years of senseless Civil War, there was a need for peace building, and moving from the period of crime to the period of building and consolidating the peace that period is call transition. He maintained that, different countries have their own transitional justice.
He revealed that after the war, there was a Commission that was setup called the Truth telling, stating how that truth telling healed the past of victims and also gave them the confidence to face life again.
Dr. Musa told participants that transitional justice encourages people to tell the truth as a way of healing their wounds. He said during the Truth and Reconciliation, the popular slogan was “kam blow you mind, kam clear you chest”
He averred that most of the legacies of the war are no more, and how there is a need for me-moralization of what happened during the war revealing that, the famous Congo Cross Bridge was named the Peace Bridge after the war.
Dr. Musa maintained that majority of youths perpetuating violence, and some who took part in the August 10 insurrection are not knowledgeable about the 10 years civil war and according to him journalists should be reporting on Transitional Justice issues making reference to the TRC report to raise the awareness among young people.
One of the participants, Ronald Morovia, an AYV reporter applauded the organization for organizing the training, stating how he learnt of things that he was never aware of adding that from now on reporting on transitional justice will be a priority for him.
The training was climaxed by a group work and group presentations on identifying transitional justice issues in Sierra Leone. Many issues were identified and recommendations on how to solve them proffered by participants.