Tok Bot Salone: encouraging debate in Sierra Leone

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

Tok Bot Salone (Talk About Sierra Leone) was a national radio debate programme - running between 2011 and 2016 - which enabled people in Sierra Leone 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," said Hassan Arouni, senior production manager for BBC Media Action 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 first show took election violence as its theme and was recorded in a constituency 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. It featured the two leading political parties and national police, while the audience members who posed questions ranged from religious leaders to local businesswomen.

During the Ebola crisis of 2014-16 the programme helped people ask the authorities about their response to the outbreak.

Community event

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

The programme also supported and reinforced its sister show, Fo Rod (Crossroads). The BBC Media Action-produced programme was 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 was a useful tool for citizens to air their concerns about how the country is run.

 

Project information
Project name Global Grant: Governance
Funder The UK government's Department for International Development 
Dates 2011-2016
Themes Governance
Outputs Tok Bot Salone (Talk About Sierra Leone)