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Sierra Leone: Hallowell is JHR Country Director

19 April 2007 at 18:06 | 467 views

By Alicia Filipowich.

With the aim of creating change without creating dependency, Journalists for Human Rights’ (JHR) expansion in Sierra Leone is now a reality.

Late last year, JHR was awarded funding for the frist two years of its five-year program by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF). The program began April 1.

The Sierra Leonean program will be similar to JHR’s inaugural project in Ghana, which will be ending next year in accordance with JHR’s sustainability mandate.The chief difference, said Nikki Whaites, JHR’s International Programs Director, will be the implementation of monthly training workshops in Freetown instead of smaller, formal workshops across the country. This is a reflection of the smaller and closer-knit Sierra Leonean media community.

Whaites is currently in Freetown, the county’s capital, setting up a new office in downtown Freetown, hiring a country director and making arrangements for the five journalism trainers who will arrive in mid-June.

“With information from our past trainers as well as the hope and enthusiasm of the people of this emerging democracy, it’s an excellent time to begin the program,” said Whaites.

JHR has been operating in the country for 18 months. JHR’s two journalism trainers in Freetown and Kenema were working with local journalists and assessing the local media situation.

Ben Peterson, JHR’s Co-Founder and Executive Director, sees this move as the first phase of an expansion across Africa for the organization.

“It’s fantastic,” said Peterson. “It proves that JHR’s programs are successful.”

JHR’s journalism trainers will work in print, radio and television newsrooms as well as with NGOs. JHR’s partners include the Network Movement for Justice and Development and Eastern Radio in Kenema.

The new country director is Elvis Hallowell(photo), a Sierra Leonean.

"Elvis is a wonderful addition to the JHR team. He has an amazing passion for human rights and journalism and I’m excited to have him heading up our work in Sierra Leone," said Whaites.

The expert trainer for the program is Kim Brunhuber and the four journalism trainers are Jennifer Hallett, Nam Kiwanuka, Danny Glenwright and Rob McKee. The latter two have worked for JHR in Namibia and with Eastern Radio in Kenema. The trainers will be in Sierra Leone for eight months.

Undoubtedly, there will be challenges, said Whaites, the least of which is getting people to see past the Sierra Leone that was romanticized in the movie Blood Diamonds.

“It’s a post conflict environment,” she said, “with the associated lack of infrastructure, minimal resources at local media outlets and a very low pay rate for journalists. They are paid next to nothing,” said Whaites. The presidential and parliamentary elections in summer 2007 will add an additional challenge for the trainers.

Despite all this, seeing local human rights awareness continue to slowly blossom will be reward enough for Whaites.

“Sierra Leone and its people have suffered a lot over the past 16 years. I look forward to seeing the changes that I hope our programs will make in their lives.”

Source: JHR newsletter.

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