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The impact of mass media on Sierra Leonean politics

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Mass media activities began in Sierra Leone around the nineteenth century and naturally, the capital, Freetown, became a standard destination for journalists living and practicing in the continent. By the 1930s, there were two main varieties of mass media in Sierra Leone: these were the print and also the broadcast media. It is calculable that about 85% of the Sierra Leonean population has access to radio and 72% of them listen to the radio on a daily basis. This is not however so for alternative varieties of mass media.

Other varieties of mass media, like the TV and the internet, was later introduced. The TV was introduced in 1963 and the net much later. Television viewership is extremely low in Sierra Leone, except in the national capital and a few other major cities. The internet, on the other hand, has a terribly low coverage therefore access is extremely low.

Contribution toward independence
One of the ways in which mass media has impacted politics in Sierra Leone is its contribution toward the attainment of political independence. As the first colony in West Africa to introduce newspaper, the media in pre-independent Sierra Leone helped to arouse a lot of political interest and activity within the country. This, in a way, galvanized the people to sustain the demand for independence until it was granted by the British colonial powers.

Dissemination of credible and reliable information
Another area in which mass media has impacted the politics of Sierra Leone is in the dissemination of credible and reliable information to the viewing, listening and reading public. Though there are some media houses which violate the red line every now and then, invariably, the work of the media has contributed to the relative peace that the country has enjoyed so far. Having just come out of a brutal and prolonged Civil War, any deliberate misinformation that can plunge the country into another kind of problem is strictly avoided.

Sustenance of democracy
Mass media has been covering elections since the end of the Civil War. They have been able to police every election since to ensure that only the true will of the people of Sierra Leone is upheld. In other words, the mass media has contributed to the sustenance of the fledgling democracy in the country since the end of the Civil War.

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Prevention of dictatorship
It can be seen from the earlier point that the media, in sustaining democracy in the country would never allow any individual to impose him or herself on the people. Anybody who would try to do that would be opposed and fought through the power of the pen until that idea is jettisoned. In the end, therefore, the mass media is helping to prevent any dictator from emerging on the political landscape in Sierra Leone.

Fighting corruption
The mass media in Sierra Leone has also been in the forefront against corruption. The media houses have exposed corrupt practices in that country and anything that smells fishy is brought to the public. Government officials and Civil Servants are put on their toes regarding the running of their respective portfolio. All these have kept the level of corruption in the country lower than it would have been if the media was inactive.

Protection of the Fundamental Human Rights of the people
The Fundamental Human Rights of the people is guaranteed in the Constitution of the Republic of Sierra Leone and needs to be guarded as such. The mass media, in addition to other entities, works to ensure that the rights of the people are protected at all times. Any infringement on the rights of any individual citizen is taken up by the media and they push for such infringement to be addressed.

Uniting the nation
Last but not least, mass media has impacted on the politics of Sierra Leone trying to bring the entire nation together. As a people who have witnessed what war can do to a nation, one of the last things the country would like to return to is war. The media has tried to be a gatekeeper to ensure that nothing in their day to day interaction would ever drive them into Civil War again. This way, mass media keeps the nation together, even if the unity gets fragile at certain points.

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