Sierra Leone Culture

Sierra Leone Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Sierra Leone

According to PHYSICSCAT.COM, Sierra Leone is a country located in Africa. Sierra Leone has a very small newspaper distribution (4 newspaper excl. Per 1,000 residents, 2000). Freedom of the press is limited, and newspapers must be licensed by the government. The dominant daily newspaper is the government-owned Daily Mail (founded in 1931; about 10,000 copies).

Radio and television are state and organized in the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), founded in 1934. The radio broadcasts mainly in English and four local languages; TV has been broadcast in one channel since 1963. There are 259 radio and 13 TV receivers per 1,000 residents (2000).


According to ALLUNITCONVERTERS, the ritual dances are an important element of the Sierra Leonean culture. Each folk group has their own dances and costumes. The music that accompanies the dances is performed on stringed instruments, wooden xylophones and drums.

In the popular music, a style called palm wine music, or maringa, was developed during the 20th century, performed on guitar and so called because the audience and musicians used to drink palm wine. The music is closely related to the West Indian calypso. The most popular artists of the last decades have been influenced by Congolese dance music, Western funk, soul and hip hop. One of the most prominent musicians was Ahmed Janka Nabay who passed away in 2018.

Sierra Leone also has rich traditions in the visual arts, especially sculptures and masks, the latter used in the ritual dances. Figures in carved ivory are preserved from at least the 16th century. A center for stone and ivory sculptures was the island of Sherbro and the coastal land adjacent to it.

The storytelling is a lively and widespread tradition in Sierra Leone, and there are people who manage to feed on telling stories. Among ordinary writers, some have gained further fame, including Syl Cheney-Coker who wrote The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar. In 2010, Olufemi Terry was awarded an African Literature Prize, the Cain Prize. Terry was born in Sierra Leone but now lives in Cape Town. The script he was awarded, Stickfighting Days, is about a boy growing up on a dump.

In the book The Devil that Danced on the Water, Aminatta Forna, a Scottish-Sierra-Leonean writer, tells of her family’s history (her father, who was previously finance minister, was executed in the 1970s after criticizing then-leader Siaka Stevens). Forna has subsequently written several novels that take place in Sierra Leone.

Mass Media

Freedom of the press is guaranteed in the Constitution, but in practice it is rubbed to the brim by hard-to-interpret rules and political interference. For example, the journalist trying to portray the widespread corruption risks being accused of slander. In 2005, an uncomfortable journalist was beaten to death by the authorities without anyone being held accountable for it. The activities of the media are also regulated by a parliamentary appointed, formally independent, media commission, whose impartiality is, however, often questioned because it is financially dependent on the government.

Although the government keeps the media under strong watch and reporters are often exposed to political pressure, conditions have improved during the 2000s. This is reflected in the Press Freedom Index published by the organization Reporters Without Borders each year, with Sierra Leone steadily climbing upwards, from place 121 of just over 170 countries in 2007 to number 61 in the index for 2013; in 2015, however, the country had dropped to 79.

Today, dozens of newspapers are published in the capital Freetown, most privately owned and critical of the government, often sensational and with poor fact checking. The editions are in most cases low. Among the biggest newspapers are For di People (in crisis), Awareness Times (which claims to be the largest newspaper in the country), Awoko, Standard Times and Concord Times. Few newspapers have some readers outside the metropolitan area.

The State Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) broadcasts in English, crisis, mende, temne and limba as well as once a week in French. SLBC also has TV broadcasts, though with limited coverage. There are many private radio stations and also a private TV channel, ABC. The radio is considered to provide more reliable information than the newspapers and is the medium that reaches out to most people.

The Internet has limited distribution, but access is constantly increasing since wireless connection was introduced in 2008. In 2014, there were approximately 92,000 Internet users in the country. There were also 4.8 million mobile subscribers and three mobile operators.


Percentage of the population using the internet

9 percent (2017)

Number of mobile subscriptions per 100 residents

88 (2017)



New corruption cases

The head of the central tax authority, his wife and three others are charged with 57 cases of corruption. The tax chief is suspended for 16 months while the investigation is ongoing. (All are later acquitted in court for lack of evidence, which is seen as a setback for the Anti-Corruption Commission).


Penalties are lifted

The UN Security Council abolishes the last sanctions against Sierra Leone, an arms embargo and a travel ban for rebels.


New loans

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes the first payment of a $ 45 million three-year loan. The money will be used to strengthen the financial system and partly to expand the country’s infrastructure.


Free care is introduced

The government announces a program for free health care for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of five.


Punished for corruption

Two senior officials at the Ministry of Defense are sentenced to prison and fined for corruption and abuse of power.

The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Afsatu Kabba, is dismissed for corruption. She was one of the two female ministers in the government. (In October, she is found guilty of embezzlement of public funds and sentenced to $ 100,000 in fines or 15 years in prison).


Ministers risk dismissal

President Ernest Bai Koroma educates the government and the country’s higher officials and threatens many with resignation unless high-level corruption ceases.

Sierra Leone Culture

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