Introduction to Sierra News Media
Sierra Leone has over 50 newspapers. In the Nation’s capital city of Freetown, there are over a dozen newspapers published. The great number of newspapers published is despite the low literacy levels in this poor, war-torn West African nation. Most of themedia publications are privately-run.
According to the law, all newspapers must register with the Ministry of Information and pay a sizable registration fee.
Freedom of Press
The 1991 constitution guarantees free speech and a free press, but in reality the press faces a lot of challenges from the government authorities. It is said that the reporters face harassment for writing articles that is critical of the government.
Media rights organisations say that the reportage on high-level corruption is a taboo because the officials using libel laws against journalists who try to report the misdeeds of the government.
The threat of defamation was used to gag the media during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Sierra Leone is a diverse country with many linguistic communities. Salone, as the country is popularly called, has around 5 million people and more than 15 different dialects and languages. This diversity has also caused a major challenge for the local media. Nearly all of Sierra Leonean newspapers are published in English, but only 30% of the population are fluent in this language. The end result is that the media practitioners are forced to direct their messages to a national audience without regard for ethnicity because catering to each linguistic community would mean greater effort to produce content in each of the local languages.
Media organisations are facing various other challenges including unreliable power supplies, lack of funding and low advertisement incomes.
Sierra Leone has over 160,000 internet users. Some of the main curbs to Internet access includes poverty, irregular power supplies and high amount of illiteracy. According to the Corporate Council on Africa study released in 2002, 88% of the country’s rural population and 74% of the urban population lived in poverty.
A. Print and Online Media of Sierra Leone.
B. News Agencies of Sierra Leone
C. Government Press Release.
A. Print and Online Media of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s print and media sectors are dominated by small private players. Many of the media publications are owned and operated by members of Sierra Leone’s diaspora in who are settled holding foreign citizenship. For these players the main objective is to bridge the news gap between the diaspora and the local developments.
Swit Salone was founded in 2006. Swit Salone is the country’s leading news online news media with the highest page views. Salone here refers to the popular nickname of the Sierra Leone. Swit Salone describes itself as an online news entertainment, fashion, sports, and cultural hub of Sierra Leone. The publication aims to bridge the gap between Sierra Leone and its large overseas diaspora by delivering quality locally reported content in a very modern website and well-designed online format. Swit Salone has a good presence in social media.
Awoko Newspaper started from a single room office at No: 11 Lamina Sankoh Street in 1998. Three friends, David Tam-Baryoh, Joseph Rahall and Kelvin Lewis started the paper with an initial investment of two million leones. Later that year, Kelvin Lewis bought out the shares of the other two partners to become the sole proprietor of the firm. Mission statement of Awoko reads, “Our Mission is to attack the Sierra Leonean psyche to stimulate constructive activity to enable real and meaningful development to take place in the social, political, economic and cultural spheres of the country.”
Awoko was started during the closing years of Sierra Leone civil war. During that time there was a need for a local news provider. The existing media companies were publishing the reports done by international wire agencies like AFP and Reuters due to shortage of local media houses doing local news. Awoko sought to fill this gap in local news with their original reports from the ground.
The Sierra Leone Telegraph
The Sierra Leone Telegraph was established in 2009. The online publication is meant to primarily cater to the Sierra Leone diaspora that is settled in other countries. The newspaper is fairly popular compared to most of the other news websites from Sierra Leone. The news websites hosts original reporting in all the sectors of the country.
The Patriotic Vanguard
The Patriotic Vanguard is based in Toronto Canada but has an office in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It is an independent media website that serves the Salone residents and Sierre Leone‘s diaspora living in Canada. Patriotic Vanguard depends on both the advertising revenue and donations to fund its operations and basic costs.
Cocorioko was started in USA and was initially called Daily News Inquirer. The paper was founded by Rev Wilfred Leeroy Kabs-Kanu in 2002. Rev Kabs-Kanu remains the sole proprietor and publisher of the paper. The paper tried to serve as a “vanguard for credible, accurate, authoritative and reliable news and analyses from Sierra Leone”. Before being established in 2002, Cocorioko had an earlier brief avatar in the 1970s when it served as a mouth piece of a student’s union.
Concord Times is a print newspaper that was established in 1992. The newspaper is circulated in Sierra Leone and in the neighbouring Liberia. Concord Times is Salone’s first publication to go online, the first newspaper which digitised its pages, the first with international reporters. The newspaper has a rich history of ground level and investigative journalism in Sierra Leone. One of the paper’s reporters, James Oghogor, was captured and killed while he was reporting from the conflict zone and is often honoured by the journalism community in West Africa.
Sierra Leone Times
Sierra Leone Times was started in 2002. This online publication provides to updated news about the country. They cover national news from Salone’s cities such as Kenema, Bo, Koidu Town, Makeni, Port Loko, Lunsar, Kabala, Waterloo, Pandebu-Tokpombu, and the capital, Freetown.
Based in Australia, Sierra Leone Times is part of the Midwest Radio Network.
This is a holding company that administers a huge network of online news publications based in a variety of countries. The network pools its resources and republishes each other’s relevant story in their own platforms. Thus Sierra Leone Times is able to cover a lot international stories.
Sierra Express Media
Sierra Express Media was established in September, 2007 as an online portal. Initially the aim was to connect the overseas expatriate community with the local happenings. The online media publication proved to be popular within the country so in November that same year they launched the print newspaper also. The print edition of Sierra Express Media newspaper is published in Freetown.
Sierra Express Media has done well to build up the website and newspaper and now has a full set of staff and correspondents.
B. News Agencies of Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has only one domestic news agency. This is the government owned SLENA which have covered in this article. That said, there are a number of foreign news agencies operating in the country. Wire agencies like AFP, PANA, Chinese News Agency (CAN), and Associated Press all have correspondents reporting on ground in Sierra Leone. The reports of these agencies are used by the national media not to mention the international newspapers.
Sierra Leone News Agency
Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA) was established in 1987 to facilitate greater exchange of information and news within the country and outside. SLENA is a semi-autonomous agency created by an act of Parliament of Sierra Leone and headed by a managing director.
SLENA is linked with other international wire agencies such as Agence France Presse (AFP),United Press International Agency (UPIA), Xhinua (China News Agency), Associated Press (AP), and Reuters. SLENA also supplied news to the Pan African News Agency (PANA) to enable the latter to disseminate and what labled as the “biases, and distortions prevalent in the Western Media against Africa”. The agency also publishes a twice-weekly newspaper, Sierra News, for its subscribers and public readership. Although a government agency, SLENA enjoys a level of independence in carrying out its mandate as a national news agency.
C. Government Press Release
Sierra Leone Government Press Releases are published through the web portal of the their President’s Office Website which is the State House. Government Press release seeks to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government plans, policies, programme initiatives and achievements.
The State House
This is the official media platform of the President of Sierra Leone and place from which the official press releases from the Government is made. Basically, it is the media handle and mouthpiece of the President. Statehouse website publishes reports about the activities and actions and decisions taken by the president.
The State House is name of the official workplace of the Sierra Leone’s President. The State House is referred to as the seat of power. Presidential cabinet meetings and other meetings including those with visiting foreign heads of state and international delegations are all held at the State House.
A cursory view of the media landscape of Sierra Leone shows us that it’s not in a good shape. Much of that could be attributed to the poor condition of the local economy and the internal turmoil of the nation. A huge section of the media outlets esp the online media are owned and operated by proprietors based overseas. This is indicator of the sad state of the media in the country. Though the country has many newspapers and a good number of online outlets, the quality is low and reach is limited. A major challenge the media sector faces is the lack of vernacular media. Though English is the major and official language of the country, it is not the most widely spoken language. Another drawback is the poor literacy rates of the population.
While Salone’s media industry grapples with an host of problems of its own, we at MediaBuzz are working hard to provide an encyclopaedic coverage of all the news sources in print and online platforms. We are a team of professional writers with a knack for the trends in the world of journalism. Please help us with your answers for the below questions in the comment section.
- What are the top five Salone newspapers?
- Did we miss any deserving newspaper or news website in this list?
- What are your views on the political inclinations of different Sierra Leone newspapers?
- Which are the top three politically neutral Sierra Leone newspapers?
- What are the best Sierra Leone newspapers for business, entertainment and sports news?
- Is there any particular media outlet in Sierra Leone that caught your attention?
- What are some of the innovations by Salone’s media in recent years?
- Do you have any other information related to Sierra Leone newspapers?
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