By Foday Moriba Conteh
The Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, has on Monday 1st August 2022 concluded a one-day training workshop for journalists on investigative and Anti-Corruption Reporting in the country at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown.
During the opening of the training, the Media Reform Coordinating Group also used the opportunity to launch the Right to Access Information Manual for Journalists in order to guide citizens, information holders but most importantly, journalists, on how to use Sierra Leone’s RAI Act to access information in the country.
In his welcome address, the National Coordinator of Media Reform Coordinating Group, Dr. Francis Sowa commended the Media Foundation for West Africa for their continuous support towards the activities of the MRCG and the media landscape in the country.
He revealed that the MRCG, with support from Media Foundation for West Africa, they are pleased to launch the Right to Access Information Manual for Journalists in order to guide citizens, information holders but most importantly, journalists, on how to use Sierra Leone’s RAI Act to access information in the country.
Dr. Francis Sowa added that after the launch of the manual, MRCG with support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, will also train journalists from selected media houses on investigative and Anti-Corruption Reporting in the country, adding that the training will capacitate journalists on investigative and Anti-Corruption Reporting which he described as an intervention by MRCG and partners towards empowering journalists in the country.
In her statement, the Project Coordinator of the Media Foundation for West Africa, Adizatu Moro Maiga noted how the MFWA has been in existence for over 25 years and is geared towards promoting media freedom, development and accountable governance across West Africa.
She maintained that for Sierra Leone they have been working with the Media Reform Coordinating Group on numerous activities and one of which is access to information, adding that access to information is becoming an important global issue.
Adizatu Moro Maiga further pointed out that access to information has become an important tool for development and accountable governance, but, however, added that it’s in that regard they have taken upon themselves as an organization, as part of their activities, to promote access to information in West Africa.
She stated that the Right to Access Information Manual for Journalists is part of MFWA’s continuous work on their access to information and trying to bring understanding on the whole complicity of the Right to Access Information Law.
The President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, described both trainings and the launching of the manual as a laudable venture towards the development of journalists in the country.
He encouraged the participants to take advantage of the training which he said will empower them in the areas of investigative and Anti-Corruption Reporting.
Ahmed Sahid Nasralla maintained that the manual on the Right to Access Information for Journalists will guide journalists on how to use Sierra Leone’s RAI Act to access information. He enjoined journalists to use the Sierra Leone’s RAI Law in order to prove if the law is working.
The President pointed out that SLAJ will continue to advocate for the passing of the regulations that support the implementation of the Right to Access Information Act which he said since 2013 when the Act was passed Parliament has still not passed the regulations into law.
Launching the manual, the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, commended the Media Reform Coordinating Group and partners for both the training and the launching of the manual for journalists.
He said that access to information is becoming a human rights issue around the world and as a Government they are very committed towards supporting that drive.
Commenting on the passing into law the regulations of the Right to Access Information Act Mohamed Rahman Swaray informed the gathering that Parliament has on Thursday 28th July, 2022 laid the regulations in the House, adding that Government is doing its part to ensure that it creates the enabling environment for the media not only to access the much needed information but also for citizens who wish to hold Government accountable.
He encouraged journalists to use the manual, especially Chapter 3, which explains the steps involved in accessing information under the RAI law and that it provides a checklist on what is required when requesting information under the RAI law and that it also gives journalists quick tips on how to use the RAI law to access information in Sierra Leone.
The Commissioner for Right to Access Information Commission, Dr. Ibrahim Seaga Shaw also expressed similar views during the ceremony.
Closing the opening ceremony was the official launching of the Right to Access Information Manual for Journalists by the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Rahman Swaray which was followed by the commencement of the training workshop for journalists on investigative and Anti-Corruption Reporting facilitated by Dr. Isaac Massaquoi, Lecturer Faculty of Communication, Media and Information Studies, University of Sierra Leone and Seth Joseph Bokpe, Senior Reporter, The Fourth Estate, Ghana.