Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but the retention of the Public Order Act of 1965, which criminalizes libel, continues to threaten the observance of this freedom in practice.
- The draft Sierra Leonean Right to Access Information Bill had not been enacted by the end of 2008.
- In September, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) imposed a media blackout on the activities of the country’s police. The move was a show of solidarity six weeks after the authorities refused to implement recommendations for the compensation of eight journalists who had been attacked by the police during a State House function in August. The blackout was lifted two days later, after Vice President Sam Sumana, who is the chairman of the police council, assumed responsibility for the attack and promised to compensate the journalists.
- Despite improvements in the government’s attitude toward the media and a significant decline in the number of attacks against journalists, several incidents during the year posed problems for press freedom. In August, supporters of the ruling party attacked and ransacked the offices of Unity Radio, stealing the station’s generator and disrupting normal broadcasts. In October, the director and staff of the Society for Democratic Initiatives (SDI) reported receiving death threats after publishing its report on the state of media in the country. And in November, an angry mob in the town of Tombo attacked the Voice of Peninsular, a community radio station. Several youths took away the station’s transmitters, generator, and other equipment, and threatened the lives of the staff.
- The number of newspapers and radio stations in the country has grown significantly in recent years. More than 50 newspapers now publish, and over 45 government and private radio and television stations provide domestic news and political commentary. Self-censorship is much less common than in previous years.
- However, poor journalistic training, some instances of self-censorship, and corruption within the media sector continue to weaken the quality of news coverage. Reporting is often politicized and inaccurate.
- Just 0.2 percent of the population accessed the internet in 2008, though at least five separate internet service providers were operating in the country.