By Alpha Good Kamara
In contemporary Sierra Leone, there is a plethora of registered newspapers, radio and television stations but ironically not all those that are registered with the regulatory institution, the Independent Media Commission (IMC), do functionally exist or are actively disseminating news items geared towards informing, educating and entertaining.
Irrespective of the prevalence of the Social Media, nonetheless, the traditional print and electronic media platforms continue to be the main sources most continue to rely on for news.
A recent BBC Monitoring assessment of Print and Electronic media vibrancy, dissemination of factual and balanced news items, The Calabash was ranked fourth after Awoko, Concord Times ,Standard Times followed by The Sierra Leone Telegraph as far as the Print Media is concerned.
In terms of Television, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC), a state-owned terrestrial network with limited coverage was named by the BBC Monitoring group in a guide it provided to access reliable Press Houses in the country.
It was also recommended for radio listening followed by Radio Democracy in Freetown, Kiss FM in Bo, Skyy Radio in Freetown, Capital Radio , a private station in Freetown and Voice of the Handicapped also located in Freetown.
According to the BBC Monitoring group, Media freedom in Sierra Leone has its limits adding that media rights monitors say high-level corruption is a taboo topic, with officials using libel laws against errant journalists.
It further stated how despite a genuinely diverse media landscape “journalists are sometimes targets of arbitrary arrest and detention” quoting Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also underscoring that the main threat comes from “politicians who often use the police to try to control reporters or hinder their work”.
In terms of the challenges facing broadcasters unreliable power supplies, poor funding and low advertising revenues stood out poignantly with dozens of radio stations, most of them privately owned.
The monitoring group intimated that the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) is the national state-owned broadcaster and BBC World Service is on FM in Freetown (94.3), Bo (94.5) and Kenema (95.3) while the Voice of America and Radio France Internationale broadcast on FM in Freetown.
It also revealed that dozens of newspapers are published in Freetown, despite low literacy levels saying most of them are privately-run and are often critical of the Government.
Also referencing the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) it claims how poverty, irregular power supplies and illiteracy act as curbs on internet access also disclosing that there were 1.04 million internet users by December 2021, comprising just 12% of the population (Internetworldstats.com).