Eight years after the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone now has a public broadcaster. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged DW-AKADEMIE’s role in establishing the station.
Ban Ki-Moon and Ernest Bai Koroma (right)
The moment when the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, and UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, symbolically launched the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) was broadcast live throughout the country. Koroma thanked the United Nations for its help in reforming the media sector and praised – as did Ban Ki-Moon – the commitment of international media development organizations, including DW-AKADAMIE, in supporting the station’s transition.
In late December 2009, Sierra Leone’s parliament passed a law to transform the pro-government state broadcaster Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) in to a politically independent, public broadcaster. President Koroma endorsed this move, saying “Let us bring to the microphone all shades of opinion, let no voice be marginalized.”
Sierra Leone is the second African country after South Africa to voluntarily hand over the control of a state broadcaster and grant it the status of a public one. “This is a milestone in this country’s march to progress,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in Freetown. He also explicitly praised the UN Radio heard throughout the country since 2000 as part of the peace process, which has now been merged with SLBC.
As part of a three-year project financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, DW-AKADEMIE will support the station’s transition to a public broadcaster with consultations and workshops for SLBC management, journalists and technicians.
“Sierra Leone is progressing at a breathtaking speed,” says Christopher Springate, the project manager responsible for the DW-AKADEMIE project. Ten years ago the country was in the midst of a brutal civil war but is now making visible strides. “There was a peaceful transfer of power to the opposition following the successful elections in 2007. This can’t be taken for granted in many parts of Africa. And now, with non-partisan support, the former state broadcaster has become independent. To date, this has only happened in South Africa,” says Springate.
From 1991 – 2002, Sierra Leone was caught up in one of the most brutal civil wars in Africa. Approximately 135,000 people were killed, 4,000 maimed and 50,000 raped. An estimated 5,000 children were forced to become soldiers. Today, despite rich reserves of diamonds, gold and titanium ore, Sierra Leone is the third poorest country in the world, ranking 180 out of 182 countries on the UN Human Development Index.