Author Archives: Andrew Ewoku

Ensuring media proficiency and people’s participation in the 2012 elections

Ensuring media proficiency and people’s participation in the 2012 elections.

A one day forum on the rules of engagements with community radio stations funded by JHR was organized in Bo City on the 21st September 20012 by the Independent Media Council (IMC). 17 participants representing community radio stations, District councils and traditional leaders attended the session.

The forum was designed to ensure the preparedness of Community Radio Station managers for efficient coverage of the electoral process. It also prepared them for more dynamic engagement with people in order to increase awareness of the role of Community Radio stations to provide an independent space for dialogue.

The forum provided participants an opportunity to get a clearer understanding of the rules of engagement with community radio stations. It also provided an orientation on five of the revised Media Code of Practice “Guidelines for the Coverage of Political Party activities and Elections in Sierra Leone”. It was also a specific orientation on potential infringement scenarios during the elections.

The forum was aimed at improving people’s participation in the use of the media and improving the working relations between targeted stakeholders and community radio personnel.

JHR trains Law Enforcement and Justice Officials in Northern Sierra Leone

                                                                

(Separate group discussions by the Sierra Leone police, Prisons officers and Local Courts Representatives).

During a three day workshop organized for Law Enforcement & Justice Officials (LEJOs) by Access to Justice, a local NGO working in the Northern districts of Sierra Leone, I was contacted as JHR/BBC Media Action trainer to facilitate a session on the Child Rights Act and the Three Gender Acts.

The session was intended to train 90 Law Enforcement & Justice Officials in the three districts with emphasis on the gaps as well as the roles and responsibilities of the LEJOs – specifically in dealing with access to justice issues and the implementation of the Three Gender Acts of 2007 and 2009 and the Child Rights Act of 2007.

The training attracted LEJOs from Bambali, Kambia and Port Loko districts including police, local and magistrates court personnel and prisons officers. The objective of the training was to increase the ability of women and children to access justice through the provision and strengthening of legal services by discussing the roles and responsibilities of the LEJOs.

It was a very interactive event and the LEGOs were impressed by the link between human rights, the media and other stake holders.

 

SLAJ lectures Journalists on Press Freedom Day.

SLAJ lectures Journalists on Press Freedom Day.

A snap shot extract from – the Africa Young Voices publication of

May 3 2012.

 

Members of the Association of Journalists (SLAJ) organized a lecture to mark this year’s Press Freedom Day on fundamental Human Rights, International guarantees, lessons and challenges of practice. The lecture was supported by BBC Media Action – Sierra Leone.

As BBCMA/JHR trainer, I was privileged to be one of the panelists who facilitated the discussions which hinged on elections and fundamental principles and rights. My fellow panelist was Mr. Tonya Musa, lecturer of Mass Communications Department, Fourah Bay College in Freetown. The lecture also drew a large number of Sierra Leonean journalists who took active part in the events that preceded the lecture.

Among a myriad of issues we discussed, we called on journalists to be aware that in as much as they have a role to play in the November 17 elections, they should also recognize the role of other stake holders like the Sierra Leonean Police, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and the political registration Commission (PPRC) as crucial players in the electoral activities and that it’s incumbent on journalists to support them achieve their objectives.

A lot of issues also came up for discussion and contentious among them was the issue of media houses coming out to champion the cause of politicians, there by abusing their obligation as journalists. We called on practitioners to continue to sensitize the people to enable them understand the electoral process, the Biometric system of registration and elections.

On their part, journalists expressed the challenges they face in their news rooms as regards election reporting. The session ended with a call on journalists to endeavor to cover elections campaign and voting process as they are the beginning of nations building process with a fair amount of objectivity, impartiality and transparency.

Feedback on BBC Media Action/JHR’s work with community radio stations in Sierra Leone.

Working with community radio in Sierra Leone is an effective choice; 80 percent of the population listens to the radio and poor literacy levels make it the first line of information for the most vulnerable communities.

After six months of training journalists in the first selected set of radio stations that I have been placed at, I can say a number of human rights related issues have been identified and broadcast, the two rounds of trainings certainly helped bring out a number of issues affecting the communities to light and some addressed.

The training & mentor program that BBC Media Action  in partnership with JHR conduct in the provinces with community radio stations is clearly creating an avenue for checking and demanding accountability by concerned communities.

Working with provincial journalists who rarely get training opportunities like their Freetown counterparts is so rewarding. Most of the volunteer trainees say the JHR training sessions on rights media are helping them to recognize their true role as journalists, their responsibilities to the community, and the need to create objective rights based radio programmes for community development.

At two of the station’s, Voice of the Women in Mattru Jong – Bonthe District and Voice of the Peninsula Mountains radio in Tombo, two big stories highlighted issues that had affected the communities. So, after the training in rights reporting and writing the journalists were able to conduct exhaustive investigation with balanced sourcing, aired them and the impact was felt.

One of the stories done by a journalist at the Voice of Women was about a disagreement between the youth in Mattru Jong and World Vision, an international NGO working in Mattru Jong. The disagreement steams from a five month delay on the part of World Vision in delivering “food for work” which was meant to be an in kind reward to youth who were asked by the NGO to maintain feeder roads in the district. The story also prompted World Visions Country Director to personally escort the said food from Freetown to Mattru Jong were he also issued a press release that was carried in subsequent news.

The other story was aired at the Voice of the Peninsula Mountain, and it was about illegal water rate collections by two members of a water committee was foiled. The Tombo community set up by the committee consisting of elders and chiefs to oversee collection of water fees and subsequent repairs agreed upon by the community to help reconnect tap water, after repeated pleas to government by residents failed to yield results. The station got a tip on the story, investigated and aired it leading to the arrest of two committee members and recovery of the illegally collected monies.

The above mentioned community stations also won best community radio station awards in the Southern & Western – rural categories in the Independent Media Council  (IMC) Media Awards in this year’s ceremony held on the 2 march 2012, at the Miatta conference centre in Freetown.

As we start off with a new set of stations selected to benefit from the training & mentorship program in 2012, we hope to raise more awareness of human rights and help cover and address even more rights violation related issues.

Andrew's Snap-shot from Bonthe Island.

Fending for their families or child labor?

They were such a spectacle at one of our numerous boat stop-over’s on our return trip from Bonthe Island, during a joint BBC Media Action and JHR’s needs assessment for the second round of stations to be trained and mentored in 2012.

Bonthe Island is located on the south eastern part of Sierra Leone, with water transport being the only means to access the island; it’s also one of Sierra Leone’s renowned islands for its past slave trade era activities and the only other municipality in Sierra Leone apart from Freetown – Tempting to say it’s a forgotten part of Sierra Leone for the lack of or aging basic infrastructure and going by our findings from interactions with the indigenes and authorities.

With a population of slightly over 3000 inhabitants made up of mainly Shaboro and Mende speaking tribes, Bonthe Island is largely a fishing community. The foot prints of slave trade activities still very evident along with the colonial era architectural style buildings that make up the bulk of buildings on the Island still standing firm.

As part of my needs assessment, I asked a section of indigenes what possible human rights issues existed on the island, and high among them is the use of child labor in fishing activities, which is the major economic activity on the island.

As I go in to my placement early April 2012 with radio Bontico, the only community radio station on the island, I look forward working with journalists to address a myriad of human rights issues that came up during our needs assessments exercise and particularly the issue of child labor and other human rights related violations that children face on the island.

Sallieu-Mohamed-Bangura1

Jhr trained journalist breaks an illegal activity in Tombo – Sierra Leone.

In December 2011, jhr-trained Sallieu Mohamed Bangura set out to investigate an interesting story using his newly acquired journalistic skills in human rights reporting.  Sallieu using his story helped break up an illegal water rate collection exercise by two members of a water committee set up to manage a water crisis in Tombo village in Sierra Leone.

Knowing that access to clean and safe drinking water is a basic human right, and an issue that interests him as a human rights reporter – Sallieu got to the bottom of this story and swiftly.

The Tombo community has for the past months been suffering from acute water shortages after the government pumping station stopped functioning in June of 2011; several pleas by the community to have government fix the problem showed no progress.

Sallieu got a tip on the story from a source who preferred anonymity and discovered that a very urgent and pertinent issue that prompted the Tombo community to agree on household contributions towards sorting the water crisis, was being sabotaged by two water committee members appointed and tasked by the community to help oversee the exercise to get tap water running in the community again.

The story led to an immediate response by the committee and the police in Tombo arrested the culprits and recovered the illegally collected monies.

Navigating Sierra Leone, local-styles

Some shots from my travels to the provinces with colleagues from BBC Media Action.

I set off for the journey as early as 5am, aboard a relatively swift and comfortable bus belonging to Abbess Bus Company headed to Kenema District. I would then make a connection to Kailahun District for Kenema town.
I was also to meet up with Mariana, a colleague from BBC World Service Trust who is a resident mentor at radio Moa. She was already in Kenema town so we would head together to Kailahun. As the bus approached kenema town, a call came through from Mariana: she wanted to know where we had reached. So, when I arrived at Kenema town at about 11am, I tried to call her, so we could meet at the bus stop and continue with the journey to Kailahun.
No network coverage.
I tried repeatedly to reach her on phone for about thirty minutes, to no avail. What to do? I knew the network was not going to improve anytime soon. However, sleeping over at Kenema was not an option, since I had activities lined up for the next day.
As I pondered my next move, my phone rang. It was Mariana – a sigh of relief. She sounded so worried, wondering what had possibly happened to me being my first time in Kenema. I told her everything was fine and that we would still make the journey.
I then gave her directions to where I was. She arrived moments after. “I hope you have light luggage?” she said.
At that instant I knew I was in for a shocker.
“We are likely going to ride on motorbikes,” Mariana explained. “The road to Kailahun is in a deplorable state, and the only vehicles that ply the route are either 4WD vehicles belonging to NGOs working in Kailahun, or some not so sound passenger Land Rovers that would take us no less than seven hours to reach our destination, coupled with likely possibilities of breakdowns and accidents” she said.
It was clear the bikes – okadas as they are commonly called – were our only bet to make it to Kailahun that day.
So, we set off on bikes for the 74-mile journey. Twenty minutes into our ride, it started raining. Without no rain protective gear except for the helmets, through stretches of forest, large gullies and muddy waters on the road, we had a fair share of drenching to contend with for the four-hour journey. Nonetheless, we got to Kailahun – muddy and soaked but safe and sound.