As part of its capacitation exercise and also ensuring that Journalists are fully equipped for reportage on elections-related activities, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) successfully completed the training of media practitioners in eight districts across Sierra Leone on Elections Sensitive Reporting and Countering Disinformation and Fake News.
The project is funded by UK Aid (now known as the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office) through a coalition of three including the Talking Drum Studio, Independent Radio Network (IRN) and SLAJ. SLAJ is responsible for the training of journalists in eight districts: Bombali, Falaba, Tonkolili, Kono, Kenema, Moyamba, Pork Loko and Western Rural.
In Makeni, Bombali District, at the Makeni District Council, participants from Bombali, Tonkolili, Falaba, Kono and Port Loko converged and were trained on Election Sensitive Reporting and Countering Fake News respectively. The trainings were facilitated by Steven Douglas and Thomas Dixon.
Dr Isaac Massaquoi and Commissioner James Tamba Lebbie conducted the training for participants from Kenema, Pujehun and Western Rural districts who were assembled at the Sahara Conference Hall in Bo district.
Speaking about the project, the SLAJ National Secretary General, Alhaji Manika Kamara, informed the participants that the aim of the training is to see how best journalists will be able to identify and counter fake news, misinformation and disinformation during the electioneering period through the various media outlets and also to remind media practitioners about the type of news they put out to prevent chaos and instability.
He urged the participants to be true professionals in carrying out their duties as journalists in their various communities, explaining that the public rely on them for factual, credible and timely news as most radio listeners often accept what they hear on radio, television or read in newspapers as gospel truth.
“SLAJ is doing its best to train as many journalists as possible based on available resources to ensure the public has increased access to accurate and factual news and analysis on the elections to help them make informed decisions. At the same time, this is to capacitate journalists to be on top of situation when presenting their programs,” he said,
adding that the training is among several other trainings being undertaken by SLAJ across the country relating to professionalism and inclusive democracy.
Mamoud Marrah, SLAJ Northern Regional Chairman, expressed appreciation to the funding partners for facilitating the training exercise which they have been yearning for especially on countering fake news and disinformation. He stated that the knowledge gained during the training exercise will be cascaded to their colleagues who were not fortunate to be part of the training.
The SLAJ Southern Region Chairman, Abubakarr Mustapha, called on SLAJ and partners to pay more attention to his region, which according to him is politically sensitive, explaining that participants were drawn from the various radio stations within the region. He assured that with such training journalists will be better placed to identify fake news and misinformation and also report from an informed point of view on election-related issues without bias.