Members of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), led by the President, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla and its affiliate bodies held an engagement with the New UNPD Resident Representative, Frederick Hans Ampiah and his core team at his office in Freetown.
Nasralla briefed the UNDP Resident Representative and his team on SLAJ and the media landscape in Sierra Leone touching on the merits and demerits of media pluralism as well as other areas that include media ownership, media poverty and reporters’ welfare, media viability and sustainability, media freedom and responsibility, countering disinformation, misinformation, fake news and hate speech. He mentioned the strides SLAJ, its local and international partners and the Government are making towards media development.
The President of SLAJ revealed the establishment of the National Fund for Public Interest Media saying its aim is to promote public interest and accountability journalism. He added that the SLAJ Media Manifesto (The Media We Want) is the Association’s ‘strategic development plan’ and a ‘guidebook’ for media development interventions in the country.
He emphasized on the need for what he calls a ‘strategic partnership’ between SLAJ and the UNDP to promote development journalism in such areas as the Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change.
“The media should not be seen as a mere outlet for the dissemination of development news but as a key partner in planning and driving that development,” said Nasralla and assured the UNDP boss of the full cooperation of SLAJ.
In response, the UNDP Resident Representative said he now has a fair understanding of the media landscape in the country beyond reading the newspapers. He expressed his desire to work with SLAJ and the Media through supporting capacity building in line with specialized reporting, development Journalism and promoting media sustainability initiatives.
“Let me reaffirm the UNDP’s commitment during my term here to strengthen the media in Sierra Leone to drive positive change and amplify the voices shaping Sierra Leone’s future. We are proud to partner with SLAJ and others for media development. We will also be involved with the SLAJ Annual Media Awards as part of our contribution to promoting professionalism and excellence in the media,” said Ampiah.
Ampiah highlighted four things that he would like SLAJ and the media to prioritize: Coordination and partnerships within and outside the media and civic space; interfacing with other non-media organizations and spaces exploring partnerships and engaging differently at different levels.
He talked about taking hold of the development space by making sure the media is not treated as an afterthought in the national development agenda but as part of the development communications policy and ensuring the media is involved from the word go.
According to him, there is the need for specialization to promote analytical and in-depth reporting in critical areas like climate change, the environment, health, agriculture and development initiatives.
The last one , he said, is capacity building geared towards maintaining professionalism, responsible and ethical reporting.
Meanwhile, Ampiah commended SLAJ’s relationship with the other media stakeholders, noting that in some countries, it is difficult to have different media groups all sitting at a table to discuss in a peaceful way matters affecting them. He also encouraged SLAJ to coordinate with other sector players, like the private sector, for a vibrant media landscape.