Our Newspapers

All the week’s news and views

Never forget that if you don’t hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one.
Arthur Brisbane


Every week our two newspapers

Below: Current newspapersRegulationBrief history of newspapers on St HelenaSpecial DaysRead More

Please note: for brevity we have used abbreviated titles for the newspapers discussed here. They should strictly be referred to as ‘The St Helena Sentinel’, etc.

Please note: there are many sources on the Internet purporting to give news and information about St Helena. Some of these are not reliable and you should use them with caution{1}.

Our current newspapers

A vibrant local media is important to the Island for a number of reasons that span all areas of Island life. Media must seek to promote the Island, hold statutory bodies to account and involve and inform the whole Island as well as people round the world.{a}






The Sentinel

March 2012


The Sentinel

South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.)

The Independent

November 2005
(Closed March 2012
Restarted April 2012)


The Independent

M Olsson{2}

The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Serving St Helena and her community worldwide

Below: ContentPublicationAdvertisingHistoryContactsFunding


Sentinel front-page, 27 July 2017

The Sentinel’s front page has photographs and an introduction to the main stories contained within. There is no editorial as such but a ‘Comment’ is published every week by a member of the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team. Most articles are authored by members of the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team, though contributed articles are also published. Other regular features include a photograph of each baby born in the week together with a brief description; letters to the editor; a children’s page and ‘Faith Matters’ (church notices). The paper’s focus is on Saints’ news and features tend to concentrate on Saints, at work and at play, and St Helena history. It follows the convention of most UK tabloid newspapers of having sports news at the back. It is prepared to challenge the actions of Government but aims to be balanced, constructive and positive.


The Sentinel publishes on a Thursday. The printed version is available island-wide by lunchtime. For a small fee you can have your weekly Sentinel emailed to you on the Thursday of publication.

Download the most recent Sentinel (usually available online on the Monday following publication). You can also have a copy emailed to you every Thursday for a small fee - see the S.A.M.S. Website.


You can download the Sentinel’s Rate Card (March 2019).


The Government of St Helena issued the following announcement on 7th July 2011:

SHG is planning to set up a new, community owned company, to provide improved media services on St Helena. This not-for-profit company will provide three radio stations, all on the FM Band, and a newspaper. The first radio station will focus on popular and country music with news summaries; the second station will maintain the Radio St Helena brand; and the third station will be dedicated to the BBC World Service.

The new Company will be fully independent of Government and the current St Helena News Media Services organisation will be wound up.

The Sentinel was launched on 29th March 2012 by what was then known as ‘The St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation Ltd.’, later renamed as South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.). On the opening editorial its editor wrote: My team and I aim to create a forum that allows and encourages fair and balanced debate of all sides of these issues. A properly informed community will be better placed to decide the course for St Helena to steer. Editors have changed since but the ethos of the newspaper remains the same.


Location Map samsl

To reach the South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (S.A.M.S.) team:

The Sentinel’s offices are in Castle Gardens, in the building called Garden Hall; the building in the northern corner of the gardens.

S.A.M.S. also operates:


The Sentinel is funded by advertising revenue and copy sales. Until June 2020 this was supplemented by an annual subsidy provided by the Government of St Helena{3}, but since then it has operated entirely self-funded.

The Independent

The Independent

Below: ContentPublicationAdvertisingHistoryContactsFunding


Independent front-page, September 8, 2016

The Independent has a pictorial front page, editorial, articles usually authored by members of the Independent/SaintFM Community Radio team with some contributed articles, and letters to the editor. The Independent publishes submitted news and opinions, many of which are openly challenging of government policy and practice. Much space is given to events in the UK Parliament and their relation to St Helena.


The Independent publishes on a Friday.

Download the most recent St Helena Independent.


As at March 2019 The Independent was charging £40 for a full-page; pro-rata for smaller.


The Independent was launched by SaintFM (2004-2012) on 11th November 2005, originally only published on the Internet. The first edition contained just 11 pages (three of which were adverts for SaintFM (2004-2012)!) On 27th January 2006 the first printed edition went on sale. It only printed 100 copies. It later grew to compete with The Herald.

Closure and re-opening

The Government of St Helena issued the following announcement on 7th July 2011:

SHG is planning to set up a new, community owned company, to provide improved media services on St Helena. This not-for-profit company will provide three radio stations, all on the FM Band, and a newspaper. The first radio station will focus on popular and country music with news summaries; the second station will maintain the Radio St Helena brand; and the third station will be dedicated to the BBC World Service.

The new Company will be fully independent of Government and the current St Helena News Media Services organisation will be wound up.

Following this announcement, on 23rd March 2012 it was announced that The Independent would close the following week. More in the article below. For the four weeks The Independent was closed its owner was in discussion with advertisers, vendors and printers and The Independent recommenced publication on 27th April 2012.


Location Map independent

To reach The Independent:

The Independent’s offices are in the owner’s home, behind the Bridge Memorial Clock, but it can also be contacted via SaintFM Community Radio.


Lord Ashcroft

In March 2017 it was announced in the St Helena Independent that SaintFM Community Radio and the St Helena Independent would henceforth be funded by Lord Ashcroft, in a 3-year deal. Details of the agreement{4} were not disclosed. The agreement was renewed for a further three years in January 2020, again with no details being disclosed.

A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.
H. L. Mencken


Media on St Helena is regulated by the St Helena Media Commission, which is charged with overseeing Media Services (including radio, TV, newspapers and websites) delivered in or from St Helena in accordance with the regulatory objectives set out in the Media Standards Ordinance 2011. If you hear or read anything you think should not have been broadcast/published first contact the media outlet concerned. If this does not resolve the matter you can make a complaint to the Media Commission. You can read the ‘Media Code of Practice 2014’.

Brief history of newspapers on St Helena

Below: In the beginning…‘The Bush Telegraph’Four ‘Wirebird’sNews Media ServiceAnd Finally…What had been painted?

In the beginning…

(Original) Herald, 17th February 1853
(Original) Herald, 17th February 1853
News Review, 24 July 1981
News Review, 24 July 1981
Herald, 3 February 2012
Herald, 3 February 2012

Guardian, 10th November 1904
Guardian, 10th November 1904
Magazine banner
Magazine, 1933
St Helena News Banner, 1986
St Helena News Banner, 1986
News, 16th September 1994
News, 16th September 1994

The St Helena Press was a private printing business set up by Saul Solomon in 1806, which produced a number of government-funded publications including The Government Gazette (from 1807) and The Monthly Register (from 1809). One of these, the Gazette, attracted world attention (sort-of):

St Helena can now, it seems, boast of an entire newspaper to itself! A weekly journal, entitled the St Helena Gazette, has recently started into existence on this sterile and isolated rock. It contains government notifications, advertisements, shipping reports, police cases, a price current, and extracts from the English and Cape papers.{b}

What is thought to be St Helena’s earliest true newspaper, The Advocate (also known as the Weekly News), was first published on 8th May 1851. The proprietors of the paper intended it should awaken and rouse the people of St Helena to a proper consideration of public affairs - to form a public opinion and to make their voice heard. It also contained many letters to the Editor - still today a popular means of expression. But they were not very successful - The Advocate closed down in 1853, largely due to it being pushed out of business by a new Government-run publication The Chronicle, which started in 1852.

In 1853 another independent newspaper, The Herald, was printed by Thomas Dick of Market Street, Jamestown with the bold statement To think as we choose, to write as we choose, to admit into the paper what we choose and to reject what we choose, claiming We will be responsible to nobody. A photo of the front page can be seen (left). The first edition sold out but the paper only ran until 1860 when the owner replaced it with The Record, which also came to a sudden stop in 1861 with no explanation - just a front cover stating that the next paper would be The Guardian. Several other short-lived private newspapers were also launched about this time: The Advertiser (1865-1866); The Star (1866-1867); The Spectator (1866-1868); Church News, The Mosquito{5} and The Bug (1888){6}; The Times (1889); The Monthly Critic and Flashlight (1891); and the St Helenian and Observer (1895). All of the latter were published to address some political issue of the time, and closed as soon as the issue was resolved.

The Guardian (right) set an island record for a private newspaper: it ran for a total of 64 years, from 1861 to 1925, covering everything from the closure of the ‘Liberated Africans’ Depot to the making of Ascension Island a dependency of St Helena, described in 1886 by Rev. John Walker in ‘St Helena as I saw it’ as a small four-paged fourpenny weekly journal published in the town, and evidently from its appearance and the tone of some of its paragraphs not a fortune-making venture for Benjamin Grant, its printer and proprietor.

In September 1921 Canon Walcott took over the Diocesan Magazine (started in 1899), printing it himself. He later renamed it the St Helena Magazine to allow himself more freedom of speech, whilst including a column called Diocesan Notes. He continued publishing it until his death in 1951.

The first issue of an independent newspaper, the ‘St Helena News & Comment’, was published on 30th July 1971 by Mr W C Beauchamp of Seaview. It was still printing in October but closed soon after.

Throughout this period the government of St Helena continued to publish a newspaper. At the instigation of Governor Harford the Chronicle became The Wirebird (monthly) from January 1955 until May 1966, then The News Review (left) (weekly) and eventually from 11th July 1986, The News (right) - the first island newspaper to use computer typesetting.

Another independent paper, the New Wirebird, was published from 14th April 1990, peaking at 550 copies per week despite being twice the price of the St Helena News (30p as opposed to 15p), but only lasted until 21st June 1991.

With effect from October 1999 the Government of St Helena passed control of The News to a new body which it created - the St Helena News Media Service (SHNMS).

The News published its last edition on 25th May 2001. Curiously, it did not mention its imminent demise! From 1st June 2001 The News was renamed The Herald. This was the island’s only newspaper until November 2005 when The Independent was launched. Since then we have (almost) always had two newspapers… Since the closure of the Herald on 9th March 2012 St Helena no longer has a Government-published newspaper.

Extract from an announcement in the St Helena News Review encouraging readers’ letters:
Since this is a Government publication it would be desirable that prospective writers do not abuse a privilege extended by Government to indulge in overt or anti-Government political statements.

What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.
Salman Rushdie

‘The Bush Telegraph’

Although not officially a St Helena newspaper, special mention should be made of ‘The Bush Telegraph’ (a.k.a. St Helena Command Magazine), which was produced by and circulated amongst the servicemen stationed here in World War 2. It first appeared in August 1943, edited by a Corporal Smith and published by Gunner L D Phillips. It was simply typed and duplicated and usually ran to 16 or occasionally 20 pages. Content included what was showing that week at the Paramount Cinema (which one week included a locally-produced stage play ‘Going Gay’ - but Gay meant something different in 1943), what was being served in the canteen, local sport reports and of course local gossip. It featured the poem shown on our Memories of St Helena page.

Perhaps surprisingly it also contained a fair amount of serious content. Reconstruction of society after the war featured. Religion was also discussed, usually from a pro-Christian standpoint.

The four ‘Wirebird’s

There have been four different ‘Wirebird’ publications that should not be confused:

The St Helena News Media Service (SHNMS)

SHNMS logo

St Helena News Media Service (SHNMS) was set up by the Government of St Helena in October 1999 to own and manage its newspaper, the St Helena News{7}, and radio station, Radio St Helena. It set out to be The prime presenter of news, current affairs and entertainment in St Helena, in a factual and unbiased manner, leading to a self-sustainable service which caters for the ongoing needs of all stakeholders. It never achieved self-sustainability, always requiring a government subsidy of c.£100,000 per annum (2010 figures).

Originally SHNMS was funded by advertising revenue, supplemented by the Government of St Helena subsidy. In 2007, following the commencement of competition from SaintFM (2004-2012) & the St Helena Independent in 2005, the Government of St Helena commissioned a ‘Value For Money’ report into its subsidy. You can read the report. As a result, from 1st November 2008 SHNMS was prevented from accepting paid advertising, and so was funded purely by the subsidy.

Although officially an independent body, SHNMS continued to be funded by, and its Board appointed by the Government of St Helena. See also the article ‘Censorship, St Helena Style’ about what could and could not be published in a Government-operated newspaper.

and Finally…What had been painted?

We came across the following in an old newspaper, and are curious to know exactly what had been painted to cause such anger. If you know, please contact us.

So what had been painted?

Special Days

The following annual days celebrate journalism or address issues related to it:

Neither is actively celebrated on St Helena.

Read More

Article: Ready to erupt: Troubled times for St Helena

By Ian Burrell, published in the (UK) independent 7th April 2012{8}

The UK’s remotest dependency is poised to enter a brave new world of private enterprise. But the transition is proving painful

James Valley, from up country

There has barely been such a hubbub on St Helena since Napoléon Bonaparte turned up on its volcanic shores four months after being defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. The tiny and remote south Atlantic outcrop, which is home to a population of just over 4,000 ‘Saints’ and is presently reachable by a 2,700Km boat journey from Cape Town, is bracing itself for a shockwave to its culture and traditions.

Supported financially by Britain since The East India Company first colonised it in 1658, St Helena is about to reject its dependency on hand-outs by introducing air travel to an island which was described [by the author Julia Blackburn] as being further from anywhere than anywhere else in the world.

Work has begun on building an airport - the biggest infrastructure project the island has ever seen - which will open in 2015 with the potential for creating a tourism industry which might bring 30,000 visitors a year, if projections are correct. They will be tempted by dramatic walks in St Helena’s spectacular tropical interior, the chance to fish for tuna and blue marlin and to swim from the coast of an island that is 700 miles from the nearest land (Ascension Island). Then there is Longwood House, a French government-owned property where Napoléon died after six years in exile. Visitors might like to savour the St Helena coffee, for which Bony developed a taste.

But as the authorities try to introduce private enterprise, St Helena’s last independent newspaper has been silenced.

The suspicion among islanders is that the government is quietening a critical voice to ensure that potential investors in the new economy can expect a favourable reception.

There also remain doubts that a community that has been in receipt of £30m-a-year from the British Government (St Helena is the most costly of Britain’s 14 overseas territories) will be able to survive through private enterprise.

Measuring 10 miles by 6, St Helena is 1,800 miles from South America and 1,200 from Africa. The transport service is the pensionable Royal Mail Ship which docks once a month from South Africa.

The airport, which will allow flights to arrive from South Africa, has been given enthusiastic support by the billionaire Conservative donor Lord Ashcroft.

The Tory peer, who visited the island as a small child and recalls a family tale of how he fell in Napoleon’s fish pond, has flown over the island in a ‘one-man protest’, giving an interview from his private jet to local radio and bemoaning the fact that he was unable to land.

Labour shelved the airport plan when in power - but it was revived by the Coalition government after David Cameron entered Downing Street.

Simon Pipe, a former BBC journalist who runs a website on St Helena called The Gates of Chaos{9}, said: It’s a massive challenge to the culture. These are wonderful people but they don’t know how to run a business and take the initiative. Those who do take the initiative have left the island and moved to Swindon. (A generation ago, almost 1,000 St Helena exiles settled in Swindon - or ‘Swindhelena’ as they call it - following word-of-mouth about the town’s employment prospects.)

For private business to take off in St Helena, the island’s government needs many of those Saints to come home and bolster the service industries on which the new tourism sector will depend.

But as the Diaspora of Saints look for latest news of these tumultuous times in the island’s history, the news is hardly reassuring. The territory’s only independent newspaper, The St Helena Independent, closed down last week in a fit of high dudgeon. Independent closes down, read its final front page. Congratulations to St Helena Government! Every time private sector shows its ugly face we shoot it down.

Indy front page, March 30, 2012
Indy front page, 30th March 2012

It was hardly the message the island’s administrators wanted as they prepare to embrace capitalism. The government, which operates from a building known as The Castle in the island’s Georgian capital of Jamestown, has decided to sink about £250,000 of public funds into subsidising a new, rival media empire.

The state-funded St Helena Sentinel debuted on the news-stand last week with an altogether more positive message: On the Starting Blocks, and a picture of a young Saint preparing to run in a school sports day.

Some islanders accuse St Helena’s governors of wanting to oversee this period of change with a minimum of criticism.

Certainly that is the view of The St Helena Independent’s founder Mike Olsson, a Swedish immigrant who fell in love with the island and decided to stay. A pioneer, he first set up a radio station SaintFM (2004-2012). He began receiving so much news that he began printing The Independent six years ago. By the time of its last issue, the 90p paper was selling more than 1,000 copies a week and it is credited by supporters with having broken a culture of censorship on the island.

But Olsson was not everyone’s cup of St Helena coffee. The 49-year-old is something of a maverick who used a picture of a monkey at a typewriter to illustrate his editorials, which often irked St Helena’s leaders.

Olsson, who produces the paper with a staff of three, claimed that the government’s decision to launch the Sentinel contradicts its aims of encouraging private enterprise as the island prepares to welcome air travel. What they’ve done is completely against their own policies, he said. The government media, with huge subsidies is allowed to compete for private sector advertising. He has closed down his paper in protest at what he sees as unfair competition.

Vince Thompson, The Independent’s star columnist, said in a telephone interview that the government should be spending its money on more important services, such as hospitals and its under-performing schools.

My bone of contention is that education and public health have got to be much higher priorities than the government pandering to its pet media project, said Thompson, who defended his paper’s sometimes spiky approach.

It’s an important job to question and raise alternatives, especially in a remote society like Saint Helena where the normal democratic institutions are not so well developed.

But over at the Sentinel, which sells for £1 and is loaded with adverts for local barbecues and fitness classes as well as offers for public sector jobs on St Helena and Ascension Island, Darrin Henry claimed his paper would not be subservient to the island government, in spite of its public funding.

The day a government official tells me we can’t print something, or there is any hint of censorship, I will leave, he said. Henry, who is a native Saint and has a background as a professional photographer, has a young editorial team of five. We are aiming to build something long-term which is a very credible news service for the island and our Diaspora, he said. Henry, the chief executive of the broadcasting corporation, will also run the publicly-backed FM radio station which will shortly replace the state-backed Radio St Helena medium wave service and will threaten the future of Olsson’s SaintFM (2004-2012).

Swindhelena is not sure what to make of it. Jonathan Clingham, a St Helena-born IT consultant now living in Wiltshire, said he reads The St Helena Independent online and that its closure had come at a critical time in the island’s history. With the upcoming airport project a lot of people are interested in going back to the island. Without The Independent our main source of information is cut away.

Later this month, a digital television service will launch on St Helena, offering BBC World alongside sports and American entertainment channels. But few Saints can afford the island’s slow and expensive broadband connection.

Inside The Castle, the St Helena government is anxious to downplay the drama, insisting it had no intention to close down The Independent when councillors voted to set up the new media service. Neither do they wish to transform an island culture which is seen as St Helena’s biggest attraction to potential visitors. What we want to do, said a government spokesman, is maintain the community spirit and ethos and traditions that are part of the island’s heritage.

News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising. William Randolph Hearst

{a} Government of St Helena Media Review, September 2016{8}{b} Colonial Times, 26th June 1846{8}

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{1} Our social media feeds are, of course, completely safe and reliable!{2} a Swedish immigrant who fell in love with the island and decided to stay - Article: Ready to erupt: Troubled times for St Helena (above).{3} Under an open and transparent agreement which would provide the Government of St Helena with no editorial control.{4} In particular, whether any editorial control was included.{5} Which publication apparently once printed a spoof advertisement Who Will Work For Nothing? Early application to be made to the Clerk of the Works, a comment on the poor wages paid to Government workers.{6} In The ‘Blue Book’ for 1888 Governor Grey-Wilson reported: Three additional newspapers were started during the year:- the ‘Church News’, for promoting the interests of the Church of England; the ‘Mosquito’, a comic paper; and the ‘Bug’, started to impeach the Government..{7} Later the St Helena Herald: it was renamed from 1st June 2001.{8} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.{9} Later renamed St Helena Online and no longer run by Simon.

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