Report Showcases Improved Media Performance on Ebola Accountability

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The second quarter report of media accountability reportage on Ebola has been released through the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) in concert with the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP).

The media performance review event hosted at the St. Theresa’s Convent attracted a cross section of media operatives. Fourteen media outlets, nine newspapers and five radio stations were focus of the study.

The media outlets included Heritage, Public Agenda, Informer, Women Voices, Frontpage Africa, Daily Observer, In Profile Daily, New Democrat and Inquirer. Radio stations included Sky 107 FM, Fabric 101, Truth 96.7, ELBC 99.9 and Radio Veritas.

While expressing the view that this was not an exercise intended to indict anyone, Executive Director of CEMESP, Malcolm Joseph in welcome remarks, explained his institution’s connection with the process in terms of facilitating the release of the report to the public.

It emerged from the monitoring that an estimated 1,050 published stories were coded and analyzed out of which 180 stories were related to Ebola, 69 of which was accountability related.

The quarter report documented relative progress on the part of the media in accommodating Ebola accountability stories and doing more leg work to source these stories rather than relying on press conferences as was the case in the previous report.

Cllr. Negbalee Warner, launching the report said it is a valued partnership for them at the Carter Center Access to Information to be part of the process. He said the launch of the second quarter report is timely, following the celebration of the International Right to Know Day, where access to information in promoting accountability was stressed.

He said the report was well titled: ‘Monitoring the Monitor’ as it spoke to the fact that journalists monitored themselves in keeping with basic ethical standards and responsibility to inform the public.

He, however, spoke about what could amount to the gray area of the study in relation to the lack of follow-ups of stories. He used the occasion to challenge journalists to make use of the FOI Law in deepening accountability as the contemporary vogue.

Cllr. Warner reminded journalists about the imperative balancing media freedom and limitations, noting that in yester years people asked questions about political prisoners, which has now given way to issues of transparency and use of the access to information legislation in making judgment on society.

Earlier IREX Chief of Party, Bill Burke said journalists should find interest in the project, aimed at inspiring them to follow Ebola money and resources. He disclosed that feelers from the communities as relayed by their partners under this cost extension project suggested that the people were keen about knowing how Ebola materials and funds were expended.

Preceding his power-point presentation of the figures captured in the second report, IREX Media Consultant Mr. Samuka Konneh said IREX was proud of the improvement noted in a couple of media houses. He spoke about new indicators in the study, including male and female sourcing and news-making, number of stories reported by journalists trained by IREX.

Key points he spoke about as deduced from the summary of the report are that in one month more Ebola accountability stories were reported in this quarter as compared to two months in the first quarter (July-August), tagging the increment at 50%.

For individual media houses Frontpage Africa, Daily Observer and New Democrat fared well in terms of quantity of stories published. ELBC and Sky FM were radio stations that reported more Ebola accountability stories and the journalists were those trained by IREX.

Fabric and Truth FM recorded single accountability stories that were coded. Konneh revealed that another progress recorded in the quarter report was increased number of stories (14) placed on newspaper front pages as opposed to none in the first quarter.

He implored editors to be more committed to enhancing the quality of their content in meeting basic standards. The event was interactive, affording journalists and media stakeholders the opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the process and methodology in coming out with the figures, a release signed by Malcolm Joseph said.

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