By: Christian Conteh
Sierra Leone has confronted a significant challenge with the surge of disinformation, severely impacting the nation’s information landscape, public discourse, and democratic processes.
To address this growing concern, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), in partnership with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and with generous support from Global Affairs Canada, successfully organized a comprehensive training program on media literacy and disinformation across the country.
The training sessions, which took place on the 14th, 17th, 21st, and 24th of July, were held in Bo, Kenema, Port Loko, and Makeni, representing the South, East, North West, and Northern Provinces respectively.
SLAJ President and Project Coordinator, Ahmed Sahid Nasralla, formally opened the training events in Bo, Kenema, Makeni, and Port Loko, emphasizing the significance of combating disinformation in each region.
In Bo, Nasralla stated, “Disinformation has become an alarming challenge, spreading rapidly through social media platforms and affecting the information landscape, public discourse, and ultimately, our democratic processes. As journalists and members of youth groups, you play a vital role as key influencers in shaping public opinion and ensuring the dissemination of accurate information.”
During the Kenema training, Nasralla shared,
“We anticipate that after the training, participants will have enhanced their media literacy skills, enabling them to critically assess information, identify disinformation, and produce accurate and reliable content.”
Trained journalists he said are expected to exhibit improved fact-checking abilities and a commitment to combating disinformation, thereby strengthening journalism’s role in delivering accurate news to the public.
The training further aims to empower youth participants with critical thinking skills, enabling them to become informed consumers of news and actively contribute to countering disinformation within their communities.
In Makeni, Nasralla emphasized, “Through interactive sessions, practical exercises, and collaborative projects, we aim to enhance your media literacy, critical thinking, and fact-checking abilities. By doing so, we strengthen journalism’s credibility and empower youth to become informed consumers and active contributors in addressing disinformation within their communities.”
Finally, in Port Loko, Nasralla expressed gratitude to NDI and Global Affairs Canada for their support, stating,
“We encourage all participants to actively engage in the sessions and share their experiences, emphasizing the significance of this opportunity to strengthen their skills and knowledge in combating disinformation.”
Throughout the training, participants in each region were equipped with essential skills and knowledge to effectively counter disinformation. The program featured interactive sessions, practical exercises, and collaborative projects, all aimed at enhancing media literacy, critical thinking, and fact-checking abilities. The overarching goal was to strengthen journalism’s credibility while empowering the youth to become informed consumers and active contributors in addressing disinformation within their communities.
Facilitated by Ophaniel Gooding, the training covered key topics such as understanding disinformation, media literacy skills, fact-checking techniques, responsible reporting, digital citizenship, and online safety. These areas were identified as essential in equipping participants with the tools to navigate the complex information landscape, identify misinformation, and uphold ethical reporting practices.
Practical sessions were conducted after each training event, providing participants with hands-on experience to reinforce the concepts and techniques learned during the program.
Overall, the collaborative effort between SLAJ and NDI represents a significant step towards fostering a well-informed society, upholding journalistic integrity, and safeguarding Sierra Leone’s democratic processes against the challenges posed by disinformation.