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Stakeholders discuss media investment possibilities in Sierra Leone

By Jeneba A. Conteh 

Media practitioners and other stakeholders within the media landscape have on Monday, 28 March, held a day’s workshop on media investment in Sierra Leone.

The event took place at the Country Lodge Hotel conference hall in Freetown.

Chairman, Media Reform Coordinating Group (MRCG), Dr. Francis  Sowa, told the gathering that the consultation was aimed at collecting first-hand data on the media landscape across the country, capturing regional variations and considering possibilities for improved networking and resource sharing.

He said the consultation will also serve to explore opportunities and test assumptions surfaced by the desk research and that the discussions will revolve around perceived needs and priorities as well as potential solutions.

He said regional the consultations will also help to shape the overall scope and focus of the media investment forum which will be held in Freetown in mid-April, this year.

Dr.Sowa said in 2020, after more than three decades of advocacy, Sierra Leone’s Parliament unanimously replaced the criminal and seditious libel laws enshrined in part five of the Public Order  Act of 1965.

He said not only did the 55-year-old legislation acted as a major impediment to journalistic practice, it also severely limited private sector investment in the media.

He said the next step in the process of attracting investment in the media was to hold a series of consultations with key stakeholders across Sierra Leone, with a view to developing a convincing business case for private sector investment in the country’s media industry.

Dr. Sowa expressed the need for the public to understand  the media industry in Sierra Leone, the  legal framework, media regulators, categories of media institutions in the country, ownership, key market forces and existing business models, advertising market and perceived obstacles to investment, gaps in the market and potential opportunities.

President of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), Ahmed Nasralla, also highlighted  some of the challenges media practitioners are faced  with in  the country, adding that the investment  conference they were about to hold would  salvage the situation.

He blamed media owners who registered their businesses with the Independent Media Commission (IMC) as corporate entities, when in effect are solely  owned and operated by  man.

 He said TV stations and radio stations as well as newspapers and Magazines were faced with a lot of constraints as most of the machines and papers are imported by foreigners who control the prices while media institutions run at lost.

He called on media practitioners to take ownership of such importations so that the prices will be reasonable and affordable.

IMC Executive Secretary, Kelie Kallon, provided data on registered media institutions, disclosing that a total of 501 media institutions are registered with the IMC, with about 97 percent of the print media concentrated in Freetown.

He said radio on the other hand is proliferated in all 16 districts across the country, while TV broadcast is mostly stationed in the capital.

He said licenses for electronic media are granted in categories, ranging from community, religions, commercial, public service, international relay teaching, to direct home transmission.

Representative from the Women in the Media Sierra Leone (WIMSAL), Estina Boima  spoke on the challenges women face in the media, citing the area of  ownership in which  she said women are still under represented.

Chairman, Guild of Newsper Editors, Donald  Theo Harding, said one of the challenges faced by newspapers   is  that the distribution  has been very poor of late.

He said people prefer reading news online rather than buy buying newspapers, albeit there are still people who believe in the credibility of the print media.

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