The Independent Media Commission is the body responsible to regulate the media in Sierra Leone. As part of its mandate, the IMC and its partners with support from the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has developed guidelines on reporting public health emergencies and other national disasters to guide journalists on how to report on health emergencies with due accuracy, truth and impartiality.
The validation workshop brought together stakeholders and several journalists from various media houses.
A twelve man committee, comprising representatives from the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), the Independent Radio Network (IRN), Guild of Editors (GOE), Health Alert, Office of National Security (ONS), Sierra Leone Bar Association, Ministry of Health, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, Mass Communication Department, Fourah Bay College and commissioners of the Independent Media Commission, developed and finalised the reporting guidelines which had been initially put together by the independent media commission from the 3rd to the 10th February 201.
Commissioner of the Independent Media Commission, Mr. Francis Sowa, said that the idea of the creation of guidelines on reporting public health emergencies came up after the outbreak, of Ebola, flooding, lots of fire accidents and other natural disasters in the country and that it will serve as a reference point for journalists when reporting on major disease conditions and national disasters in the country. He also added that, this document will put journalists in a better position to know about the definition of disaster, epidemic and other terms relating to health issues and outbreaks. The guidelines as he put it, will help journalists to disseminate coordinated related messages on prevention and control mechanisms of different major diseases and other national disasters. He however, said that they as a commission are never praying for an outbreak of any disease but should it happened, journalists should use these guidelines to report on the said disease. In his speech, the chairman of the independent media commission, Ambassador Alieu Kanu, thanked all present for attending the validation workshop. He, however hoped that journalists would work with this document so as to be abreast with the guidelines as to how to cover and report on Ebola virus disease and other major diseases as when they hit the country.
In his presentation, during the validation workshop, the Head of Department Mass Communication, Mr. Tonya Musa said that these public health emergencies guidelines would enhance professionalism in the field of journalism while at the same time serve as a cornerstone for journalists to regulate themselves in the country in their day to day reporting of major diseases and other national disasters across the country.
Participants in the validation workshop of the draft reporting guidelines on public health emergencies and national disasters were put into groups and at the end; presentations were made by various group members in validating the draft document. These guidelines on covering and reporting health issues and other disasters are expected to be used by journalists to report accurately, truthfully and impartially coordinated related messages on prevention and control mechanisms of different natural disasters in the country as and when the need arises. Moreover, the independent media commission together with its partners will on Thursday 17th March popularise the draft guidelines on reporting public health emergencies and other national disasters to journalists and other stakeholders.