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The Justice of Access

2011 October 14
by sfcg
radio sierra leone

"Radio is by far the most popular and most trusted media in Sierra Leone, with 85% of people listening to radio as their main source of information," says Ambrose. "But it seems even access to radio is not a right because it depends on who owns and runs radio stations and their perceptions on using it from a rights based approach."

Search for Common Ground’s Sierra Leone Country Director, Ambrose James reflects on media justice in his country in a piece written for Sierra Express Media. SFCG utilizes a number of mediums to reach people in Sierra Leone, including radio and television.

As I understand media justice more I reflect on the fact that our governments either does not see or understand media access from a rights perspective or just deliberately try to impinge on the rights of its citizens for obvious reasons – they don’t want citizens to be knowledgeable and have access to information which might allow them to hold government more accountable. Even as that might be their fear, it has dawned on me to actually reflect on the millions of people who are cut off from the mainstream society because of this thinking and how opportunities are missed, how it impacts on their development aspirations and their living conditions continue to worsen because of the lack of basic access to information and tools. These are people who vote and place for the responsibility of running their country, region, district, chiefdom and village in the hands of the very people who do not see media as a right or deliberately just continue to deny them access. How can they vote properly based on issues? How can they make rational judgment and analysis? How can they have access to opportunities like every other citizen? How can growth take place when the people who are supposed to be supporting government’s development plans and agendas do not know what is happening beyond their localities? Lack of media justice has ripple effects; even as the leaders might think that media justice will make them less powerful and unable to act, it also undermines their development agendas. When their development agendas are not achieved they look bad in the eyes of the people.

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