Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Sierra Leone: Countering Corruption, One Story at a Time

Investigative journalism skills essential to uncovering corruption and wrongdoing.
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  • Sierra Leonean investigative reporter Silas Gbandia. (Photo courtesy of S. Gbandia)
    Sierra Leonean investigative reporter Silas Gbandia. (Photo courtesy of S. Gbandia)

Silas Gbandia is no stranger to reporting on critical issues in Sierra Leone.

Through his writing, he has highlighted the high rate of maternal and infant mortality in Sierra Leone, and uncovered government misuse of funds earmarked for combating Ebola at a time when little attention was paid to how resources were directed. As a result of Silas's reporting, other journalists picked up on these stories. The increased media coverage prompted the government to begin prioritising health care and budget more money for hospitals and medical care this year.

As a participant in two phases of IWPR's investigative reporting project, Silas continues to absorb new ways of covering political stories, reporting on court cases and holding government officials to account.

Silas has worked as a reporter for over a decade, and says that when he attended journalism school, investigative methods were never part of the program.

Sierra Leone’s Public Order Act makes reporting on sensitive issues particularly challenging.

"The government can use any strategy to accuse you of libel," he says.

At present, apart from the IWPR project, support for investigative reporting in Sierra Leone is non-existent.

The ACCESS project, supported by the US State Department and Partners for Democratic Change, is intended to empower independent media and civil society groups to function more effectively as anti-corruption watchdogs. As well as offering training in investigative journalism, the project will support an initiative called Law School for Journalists, designed to improve the accuracy with which media professionals report on court cases.

Silas and other IWPR trainees hope to establish a long-term Center for Investigative Reporting, but they are concerned that without sustained funding, it will be a challenge to keep it going.

Being a reporter in Sierra Leone is no easy job, but Silas is adamant that journalism is the best way of bringing progress to the country.

"I see so many things, so much corruption in society. I want to highlight the concerns of people," he says.

Cat Favorite is IWPR Development Associate in New York.