This page will feature research and learning from the PRIMED programme's activities in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, where the lively and diverse media scene is in economic crisis, and rarely a source of trusted and impartial information, PRIMED provides intensive support to selected media outlets to improve professional standards, audience understanding and operating models and skills.
Amid attempts to introduce independent media regulation, PRIMED helps to inform, support and moderate dialogue among sector stakeholders to help shape legislative, regulatory and legal processes toward a more independent, and more trusted and impartial, media environment.
The government has recently struck down a criminal libel law, replacing it with an Independent Media Commission which some fear could be used to silence media houses who voice opposition to the ruling party.
In this environment, public interest media which are impartial and sharing trusted information are even more important.
The Sierra Leone National Media Viability Investment Conference happened from April 21-22, 2022 and included speakers including Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio, as well as various stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. It responded to how media cannot survive on commercial revenue alone in resource-poor settings, and are in constant need for subsidies, tax breaks, and more encouraging environments for investors to support them, as well as greater transparency from governmental institutions. The Conference's primary goal was to explore the options and create a national action plan for Sierra Leone, in which public interest media is strengthened.
In order to do this, a series of presentations were featured, including the following:
This panel will be held both online and in-person at the World Press Freedom Day Global Conference 2022 in Uruguay. It will present the journey of Sierra Leone's government and media sector towards the National Action Plan on media. Furthermore, the country's growing need for international support to public interest media. It will be moderated by Guy Berger, from UNESCO, and the panelists are:
- Mohamed Rahman Swaray, Minister of Information and Communications of Sierra Leone
- Dr. Mamoud Tarawallie, Country Director for bBC Media Action Sierra Leone
- Yeama S Thompson, Director General, Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA)
- Jaime Abello Banfi, Director General, Fundación Gabo
- Sheeta Vyas, Founding Executive Director, International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM)
The Media Viability Workshop presented how the BBC Media Action has been working in Sierra Leone to improve programming, as a pathway towards media sustainability. The panel included interventions from Maha Taki, Senior Advisor for Media Development, Isac Sessay, Programme Manager, and Abir Awad, Projects Director.
"The commercial advertising industry in Sierra Leone is in a parlous state – unstructured, uncoordinated and unregulated. The shambolic nature of the industry stems from three major shortcomings – a lack of policy regulation, a limited market, and poor professional practices. Existing policy which exists only at the level of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) - the body tasked with regulating the media, public relations and advertising practices in accordance with the Independent Media Commission Act, 2020 – is limited to ethical considerations. Just one section (Section 4) of the Media Code of Practice is dedicated to the advertising industry."
"The report presents a contextual analysis of the media sector in Sierra Leone: the stakeholders; the financial motivation and incentives for their engagement; and the political and economic factors that influence media independence and viability. It also examines the business climate in Sierra Leone, and the current scope of private investment in the media sector. Additionally, it provides a brief analysis of the legal and structural constraints to the development of a sustainable market as well as the opportunities unlocked by the legal reform processes enacted by the state."
"This research paper presents a contextual analysis of the media sector in Sierra Leone, describing the key stakeholders and the financial motivation for their engagement, as well as the political and economic factors that influence media independence and viability. It also examines the current scope of private investment in the media sector and makes recommendations that could contribute to strengthening public interest in Sierra Leone."
Lion Mountain Radio is struggling to survive, because support from advertising has gone into freefall. Local businesses that once would have advertised their products and services are now closing up because of the economic downturn associated with the pandemic. And their entertainment broadcasts, which also earned advertising dollars, have succumbed to a national curfew and ban on large gatherings.The station has laid off half of its staff, because it was impossible to pay their salaries. And so far, support from outside donors has been the difference between survival and going off-air. BBC Media Action and other donors have helped the station pay for fuel to run the generator that allows the radio station to operate during frequent power cuts, and to allow their remaining journalists to cover stories effectively.Lion Mountain’s journalists have also been trained in BBC Media Action’s Lifeline broadcasting approach, to ensure their audience is receiving the information they need and trust during the pandemic.