SLAJ President Kelvin Lewis
The Sierra Leone Reporters Union (SLRU) in partnership with Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG) recently brought together state actors and media owners at the Harry Yansaneh Memorial Hall, SLAJ Headquarters in Freetown.
The drive for the engagement was to admonish media proprietors to be paying their reporters at least the minimum wage stipulated by law which is five hundred thousand Leones instead of paying them below such amount which has the tendency to discourage reporters from doing their work diligently.
The Project Manager for MRCG, Winston Scott Manga said Journalism in Sierra Leone can only attract serious attention when media houses start treating their reporters seriously by paying them decent wages. “We are working closely with SLRU to bridge the gap between reporters and their media houses and to encourage managers to take the labor laws seriously,” he said.
The Chairman of MRCG, University Lecturer Francis Sowa said the round table discussion was the first step in the advocacy as it brought together people from the Ministry of Labor, the IMC, the National Social and Security Trust and media owners to discuss relevant sections of the laws of Sierra Leone and to guide the SLRU as to how they will go about their minimum wage campaign.
The President of SLRU, Mr. Lamrana Bah noted that they already know the challenges before embarking on such campaign but said that they are going to engage management of the different media houses and see how they could encourage them to adopt the minimum wage for their reporters.
He admonished managers and editors to consider the plight of journalists and the strain they go through in gathering and reporting stories so that they would not compromise their reporting.
Representing the United Nations Development Program, Mr. Hassan Jalloh said that such initiative will go a long way in committing reporters to take their jobs seriously when they know that they will have a better pay at the end of the month. He committed the UNDP to supporting such campaign as it will change the media landscape of the country.
Mr. Abdulai Conteh from the Ministry of Labor said that in 2015, there was a press release from the Ministry calling for workers to report or relay any complaints about minimum wages but he was surprised to learn that even though journalists are seen as advocates, they too suffer the same but never took up the issue with them.
The Executive Secretary of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Mr. Paul Sandy said that it has always been a criterion for media houses when they go for licenses to show how much they will be paying their reporters but most of them state what they will never do. He said the IMC will soon put out a public notice to address such a serious matter.