Skip to content

A Light in the Dark – Radio in Sierra Leone

April 20, 2011

Children gather around a radio in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Our Sierra Leone Country Director, Ambrose Jones, was interviewed by Lisa Mullins of PRI’s The World, about the Independent Radio Network (IRN). IRN was started by Search for Common Ground after the 2002 elections, partly as a way to share the results with rural and remote communities.

From four stations, the Independent Radio Network has grown to include more than 30 community and privately owned radio stations in all of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts. In Sierra Leone, radio is the means that many people stay abreast of issues affecting them: information about health policies, trade markets and more. IRN member stations are subscribe to a code of conduct that supports ethical reporting and a high level of professionalism.

IRN speaks to the desire for diverse voices and independent space, though as Ambrose says, “holding that space is quite a challenge.”  Sierra Leone’s climate, vacillating between dusty and humid,  is rough on  radio equipment. The radio stations run on generators that often break, and while they can be fixed, more remote stations lack the capacity to do so. One benefit of membership in the the network is access to technical and material support like replacement generators and transmitters.

Despite challenges, Sierra Leoneans are committed to keeping community radio alive and well. Most of the IRN stations are staffed wholly by volunteers and when they run out of fuel to keep the generators going, it is often community members who find a way to get them on the air again.

“When the radio’s on, it’s like light for the people, and when the radio’s off, it’s like darkness.”

~Ambrose James

Learn more about radio in Sierra Leone and listen to Ambrose’s interview here. Also be sure to check out other work we’re doing in Sierra Leone!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Augustin permalink
    April 28, 2011 10:57 am

    The citation of Ambroise is extremely very well understood and clear enough therefore one thing must be taken into consideration” Law of press”.This is a situation which occured in my BELOVED COUNTRY RWANDA where in the history(in 1994) a Radio called RTLM in state of being a light became darkness and enlighted GENOCIDE.

    • April 28, 2011 11:19 am

      Hi Augustine,

      Your point is well taken. While member stations of the Independent Radio Network in Sierra Leone pledge to use radio responsibly and ethically, radio is still a tool and as much as it can be used to educate and enlighten, it can also be used to incite violence and hatred. No where has this been more true than Milles Collines in Rwanda. More recently radio has also played a negative role in the aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 elections.

Leave a Reply

Gravatar Logo

Please log in to to post a comment to your blog.

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. (Log Out)

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. (Log Out)

Connecting to %s