Sierra Leone: 'Media is an effective tool for change'- Dr. Thomas

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Former Director-General of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) has said that the mass media, if effectively utilized, has the potential to improve on the socio-economic and political development of Sierra Leone, thus urging media practitioners to use their respective media outlets to effect positive changes in society.

Dr. Ivan Ajabola Thomas was speaking at a media training workshop organized by the UNFPA in collaboration with Media Alliance for Population and Development (MAPD) at the Bo Club in Bo town. He said the development of all spheres of life was as a result of change which needed new ideas in order to produce high per capita income through modern and improved ways of life for the people.

He said the media could serve as a vehicle to advocate for development and change, adding that Sierra Leone has always been listed among the least developed countries in the world as a result of several factors, including governance, low living standard of the people, and poor infrastructural development.

Dr. Thomas noted that Sierra Leone should not continue to rely on donor support but rather on an improved economic transformation significant towards the overall improvement of the country's economy.

"The role of the mass media is to ensure specific kinds of change in society. The media must be able to bring the people together, contribute to national development and help people to adjust to changes. Economic growth should be between 5 to 7% but that is not the case. Development can be considered from various angles: political, social and economical. Sierra Leone has largely unskilled population and therefore we cannot produce more as expected; we need to improve on the illiteracy rate," he said, adding that the new media was a digitalized system which makes it possible to pass on relevant information across the world.

Issac Massaquoi and Joshua Nicol - both from the Mass Communication Department of FBC - emphasized the need for good reporting by both electronic and print media journalists for effective communication. Mr. Massaquoi said one of the main issues lacking in news reporting in the country is "feature writing", which he said journalists could use to comment on issues and happenings within and out of the country.

He said most editors believed that beginners of the journalism profession should use few adjectives in writing their stories for better understanding, noting that coherent presentation of materials will add value to their stories and therefore urged participants to develop the habit of writing feature articles in their respective newspapers.

UNFPA communications officer, Marian Samu, maintained that journalists should be able to go beyond press releases for in-depth investigation on issues dealing with maternal and child mortality and other related issues in order to know especially how the UNFPA was addressing such issues.

She said it was unfortunate that children at school-going age are giving birth as adults; a development she said needed serious media attention to reduce maternal and child mortality rates in the country.

"There are a lot of information out there for journalists; evidence based reporting is how best you can present a clear picture of happenings. The demographic and health survey which was launched by the government has a lot of information for journalists," she concluded.