Sierra Leone
Index 2024
64/ 180
Score : 64.27
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator
Index 2023
74/ 180
Score : 62.55
Political indicator
Economic indicator
Legislative indicator
Social indicator
Security indicator

The law guarantees freedom of the press in Sierra Leone. Although press offences were decriminalised during President Julius Maada Bio’s first term, several press freedom violations have been observed since his reelection in 2023. 

Media landscape

The media sector is diverse and generally independent. At the end of 2022, Sierra Leone had a total of 531 media outlets, consisting of 228 radio stations, 242 newspapers, 24 magazines, 26 local TV stations, and 11 digital satellite TV stations, although many of them were operating irregularly. Alongside the state-owned broadcaster, SLBC, the leading privately owned media outlets are the AYV TV channel, the Democracy radio station and the Awoko and Standard Times daily newspapers. Radio continues to be the most popular medium, followed by TV. Community radio stations cover much of the country, while the reach of the local TV channels rarely extends beyond the cities.

Political context

Most media outlets fall outside the direct control by politicians, who, by law, are only allowed to create newspapers, and not radio stations or TV channels. Nonetheless, many media are influenced by politicians due to a lack of financial resources and poor management. Journalists are free to investigate all subjects, including politically sensitive ones, but they often find it hard to obtain information about public institutions.

Legal framework

A provision in a 1965 public order law penalising defamation was repealed in 2020. Media regulation is now the responsibility of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), which is free of governmental and political control. Laws and policies affecting the media are drawn up in consultation with key stakeholders in the sector, including the IMC and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ). 

Economic context

Most media outlets are concentrated in the capital, Freetown. Most journalists are poorly paid and lack the equipment they need to work properly – a situation that politicians exploit to influence coverage in exchange for financial, material or logistical support. Most media outlets survive on advertising revenue, although the market is severely limited. The government provides the SLAJ, the main journalists’ union, with budgetary support every quarter but does not subsidise independent media outlets. 

Sociocultural context

Journalists are free to cover the vast majority of social issues without risking censorship or reprisals. Attacks against journalists related to gender, status, ethnicity, or religious beliefs are very rare. However, the use of social media to relay political propaganda, disinformation, and hate speech is an increasingly frequent practice.


Elections are often marked by violence against journalists, especially by political activists, and by fear of Internet shutdowns. Journalists are not immune to harassment and arrests by the police, who can confiscate their equipment. They can also be the target of threats, online intimidation campaigns and even attempted murder when working on sensitive investigations.