A former chief of UN peacekeeping operations once said that in conflict zones, one radio station is worth five army battalions. In other words, radio has the potential to change people’s hearts and minds and to present them with alternatives to the violence that surrounds them. Listeners and numerous expert studies confirm that “peace radios” have become powerful and persuasive voices for peace.
Beyond helping to ease tensions and to counteract malicious propaganda and misinformation, such radio stations have been important training grounds for local journalists and technicians, who make up most of their staff. They have strengthened professional standards in countries where media outlets have often been the mouthpieces of particular political actors.
In Sierra Leone, radio is the most important communications medium due to a sixty percent rate of illiteracy and virtually no newspapers outside the capital city, Freetown. Radio Shalom is voice for peaceful development in a country in which economic recovery has been slow, partly because the reconstruction needs after the civil war are so great. Around half of government revenue still comes from foreign donors.
In addition, media freedom in Sierra Leone has its limits. Media rights monitors say high-level corruption is a taboo topic, with officials using libel laws to target errant journalists. Other challenges facing broadcasters include unreliable power supplies, poor funding and low advertising revenues. There are dozens of radio stations, most of them privately owned, but very few promote peace and stability.
Radio Shalom amplifies the voices of ordinary people struggling to change their lives and livelihoods. It is a voice of conscience and critical dialogue that aims to rebuild the country’s image of itself and to help people live together in peace.
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