Tok Bot Salone: encouraging debate in Sierra Leone

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Tok Bot Salone (Talk About Sierra Leone) is a radio debate programme which enables Sierra Leoneans to ask questions of their leaders and discuss issues of national and local importance.

"We bring together people in power with ordinary people in communities," says Hassan Arouni, Senior Production Manager for BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone and former presenter and producer of BBC World Service's flagship programme Focus On Africa.

"Tok Bot Salone is about empowering people to have a voice, to speak out, to talk about what’s burning inside their chests."

Election debate

The programme's first show took election violence as its theme and was recorded in a constituency which includes the port in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown. "It’s an area where the two political parties have huge support and it is violence prone during elections," Arouni explains.

The programme featured the two leading political parties and national police, while the diverse audience who posed the questions ranged from religious leaders to local businesswomen.

The programme has also visited the mining town of Lunsar, bringing together mining companies, activists and local people to ask whether it is possible for Sierra Leone's mineral wealth to create prosperity for all in the country; Makeni University, where the focus was on the media's role in the 2012 elections; and the district of Kono, a political hotspot and diamond-mining area.

Ahead of the polls in November 2012, the programme also explored the female vote, with a programme titled 'What do women want?'

Community event

Tok Bot Salone is both a radio programme and a community event. The recordings in each location last approximately two hours and spark dialogue between different members of society. An edited hour-long version of the debate is then broadcast across the country through a network of partner radio stations.

The programme also supports and reinforces its sister show, Fo Rod (Crossroads). The BBC Media Action-produced programme is a weekly discussion show exploring governance and rights issues. As well as reporting on many other pressing issues, Fo Rod has uncovered corruption in the distribution of mosquito nets and reported on why sexual assaults were not being reported. BBC Media Action research has found 96% of regular listeners thought Fo Rod is a useful tool for citizens to air their concerns about how the country is run.

Fo Rod and Tok Bot Salone are part of BBC Media Action's National Conversation project funded by the UK's Department for International Development.

Related Links

From the BBC Media Action blog: Hassan Arouni: The choppy waters of democracy

BBC Media Action’s work in Sierra Leone

Research summary of the governance project in Sierra Leone 

BBC Media Action’s work on governance and rights

Tok Bot Salone is about empowering people to have a voice, to talk about what’s burning inside their chests

Hassan Arouni, Senior Production Manager, BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone

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Project at a glance:

Tok Bot Salone (Talk About Sierra Leone) is a radio debate programme which give Sierra Leoneans the chance to question their leaders.

• Since its launch in August 2012, topics discussed have included election violence and women’s rights.

• It’s part of BBC Media Action’s National Conversation project, funded by UK’s Department for International Development’s Governance Transparency Fund. 

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