The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) in collaboration with the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), over the weekend concluded the last in a series of workshops on reporting, with journalists urged not to make children double victims.
Speaking at the training for Freetown journalists held at the Harry Yansaneh Hall, the President of SLAJ, Umaru Fofanah, said the way both the electronics and print media have been reporting issues surrounding child right violations, has not been too good.
Umaru Fofana said that some newspapers even published pictures of some child victims while some radio stations also broadcast the names of the victims, failing to protect these children and in so doing they have made the children double victims.
He added because of these problems, they dialogued with UNICEF to assist in the training of journalists which they consented to, and SLAJ commenced the training in the South, East, North and Western Area.
The SLAJ President said that during the training in the various districts, it was discovered that teachers were responsible for 75% of the teenage pregnancies in these districts, and that they are living in these communities without any actions taken against them.
He said that in Koinadugu, it was discovered that this district has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy, but no records are provided by the police.
This training, according to the SLAJ Chief is geared towards highlighting how children’s rights are violated, therefore the media should be the forum that will speak on behalf of the children and should not make them double victims through its reporting.
The representative of the Family Support Unit (FSU) in Freetown, Brima Bawor, gave a background to the unit and its vision which is to create a violent-free society by eradicating violence against children.
Highlighting the challenges faced by the units, the FSU representative said that they do not have cells to keep juveniles especially those that come in conflict with the law. Also, he said, there are no safe homes for children and so when they have issues concerning these children, they take them to the Freetown City Council.
Another challenge he said they are faced with, is that most of the families prefer out of court settlement when a case of violence against a child is reported.
Declaring the session open, Isaac Davies of UNICEF said that his institution has a lot of programmes dealing with the welfare of children, and that the workshop was one of such programmes that aim at bringing the issue of children to the lime light.
He said that there are lots of key elements in the Act which the journalist needs to be knowledgeable about and hoped the training will look at all those areas.
He urged journalists to take the training seriously because at the end of the training, they would expect a change in newspaper, radio or television reporting about issues involving violations of the rights of the child.
Facilitators of the training included Umaru Fofanah, Issac Massaquoi and Pat Lewis, both of the Mass Communications Department FBC.
By Betty Milton