By Alana Green, WACC volunteer
||Fundraising continues on GlobalGiving for Radio Shalom, a station dedicated to promoting peace in Sierra Leone. WACC’s GlobalGiving Open Challenge received many responses and was championed by the Pacific region, with a donation of USD 4000 from Tahiti. “It was our way of expressing solidarity with the people of Sierra Leone,” said Linda Maea Tematua, a member of WACC’s Board of Directors and of the WACC-Pacific Executive Committee.
This project is an important part of reconstruction for those traumatized by a decade of civil war in Sierra Leone. “An impartial, independent radio station means citizens can discuss problems facing Sierra Leone and work towards lasting peace in our country,” said Mrs. Ebun James-DeKam, General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone.
With less than USD 4,000 left to be raised, continued support from individuals and groups around the world is needed. Please donate at: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/build-a-radio-station-for-peace-in-sierra-leone/
Radio is a powerful medium for communication in Sierra Leone. In a country where 80% of the population cannot read or write the official language of English, radio is the most effective way to convey accurate information. “The end of the civil war witnessed a proliferation of community radio stations countrywide but none focused on peace building and national cohesion,” explained Mrs. James-DeKam. “Radio Shalom is looking to fill the void of impartial, peace-focused content in Sierra Leone’s media.”
During the civil war there was only one radio station in Sierra Leone, the government owned and controlled Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS). It was only able to cover 25% of the country, so in 2000 the Independent Media Commission (IMC) was created to administer the privatization of the broadcast media to help disseminate information across the country. IMC is a regulatory body with the mandate to promote media pluralism, regulate, licence and register both the print and electronic media. So far it has registered and licensed over 40 community radio stations in the country.
The only radio station set up primarily to broadcast peace messages was Radio UNAMSIL, later called Radio UN. It was established by the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in Sierra Leone for conflict management and peace building. The radio station was later joined with SLBS. Radio UN and SLBS came together to form the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC). Despite the SLBC Act that states it must serve the public interest by reflecting all shades of views and interest, “The station is still promoting the government agenda rather than the public interest,” said Mrs. James-DeKam.
Radio Democracy FM 96.2 and Kiss 104FM both started as platforms for advocacy of community development and political participation but were later re-registered as profit-focused stations. Political parties also started radio stations, such as We Yone Radio and Unity Radio, but these stations contributed to political instability by fuelling political strife, disunity and confusion. The government closed down these radio stations with support from the IMC.
Establishing a peace radio station, such as Radio Shalom, fills the gap of promoting peace by disseminating peace messages through programme content. Radio Shalom strengthens interfaith dialogue about important issues facing Sierra Leone today. With a focus on peaceful conflict resolution, Radio Shalom will work with citizens to find solutions to the country’s many problems such as poverty, unemployment and corruption.
The fundraising continues on globalgiving website.