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Comment: The Media and the Issues

My name is Andrew Mambu Fahnbulleh. I am a Liberian studying Public Policy and teaching Business Development in South Africa and I am visiting my country to do some research work. My stay here for the last ten days and the rigmatazz from a few and very few media institutions only speaks a degree as to how far we are from licking our wounds after years of turmoil. 

I am now very constrained to release myself of some of the rigor in the compilation of my work and connect my laptop to the internet to respond to a publication last week from a local daily- Corruption Watch.

From every indication, it is proven that the uninterrupted debate on the effectiveness of media reporting and informing the public about factual accounts remains a challenge. The media should have one motive; provision of credible information for the public consumption. Media institutions do not distort information to the extent of inciting the public against itself.

The media do inform the public with regards to problems in our society, without the media we would know nothing. The public also need to decipher whether the media does in fact misinform them. Bad information is a human right abuse! The Press Union in every country conducts regular performance tests geared at quality output from member institutions. I think the Press Union of Liberia needs to step in here.

I cannot express how angry I get when I read papers spewing out opinions as facts and making fools out of the public. This is highly unacceptable and must be said with every might. Everyone who has tried to influence the public with non-facts has not work. I can say this definitively; it has never worked and will never work.

When a newspaper says to the public that International Maritime Organization(IMO) pays the Commissioner of a member country a specified amount of money monthly as salary, it only says how intellectually lazy and shortsighted the editor of the daily is. Several issues could be raised; what is the IMO? What is the function of the IMO? Who pays the salary of the head of a maritime bureau of a country? If only the editor had adopted a simple journalistic practice, he would not have piled up such clutter that he calls information.

Maybe, the writer needs to read Sections 5 & 6 of the Act establishing the Liberia Maritime Authority. The Commissioner of Maritime in Liberia is an employee of the Liberia Maritime Authority like any other employee. He/she is paid by the Liberia Maritime Authority not the IMO as being insinuated.

Additionally, any fund collected by LISCR or any succeeding Agent on behalf of the Government is deposited into the government of Liberia’s General Revenue Account at the CBL. The Maritime Commission in Liberia does not collect funds for maritime related programs. As a matter of better explanation, the 10% royalty that was paid to the Maritime Agency under Mr. Taylor was scrapped out by the Transitional Administration ever since 2004.

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The maritime administration now runs its affairs as an ordinary governmental agency. Budgets are drawn up and approved by the board and allotments are made by the Department of Budget at the Ministry of Finance. This is a major departure from the past. This is what I expect the journalist at the Corruption Watch to explore and not on a careless report on a man’s income.

There are several cases where interns locally referred to as “expatriates” earn mega wages here in Liberia. A classic example is the case of one of my former students, seconded here by his government at a particular ministry on Capitol Hill, the guy makes a staggering USD25, 000.00 a month. Why is this not being highlighted? Is it that he is not a Liberian? This is sheer nonsense!

Anyway, I understand the limitations of some nitwits in the marketplace. They prepare to sell their papers at all costs. Nevertheless, it should be for the public good. I do not write this with the feeling that I will not make enemies for myself, I expect a respond from the trivial following of lazy cheerleaders. My only goal is, to provide Liberia with what I expect to come from the mass media after a crisis period.

Now, let me cite a few facts to better explain what the International Maritime Organization and the Liberian Maritime Agency is all about:

Liberia is a founding member of the IMO and was one of the 21 Member States that participated in the first IMO meeting in 1959. The meeting entered into force a 1948 United Nations’ convention establishing the IMO as the first international body devoted exclusively to maritime matters. The Organization was formed to improve safety in maritime operations and help prevent marine pollution since individual countries were operating unilaterally and not coordinating amongst themselves. Like the United Nations Organization, it does not pay member institutions!

For the Liberia Maritime Program, it was established in 1948. The Liberia Maritime Authority is an autonomous agency of government of Liberia and it is responsible for the administration of the Liberia Maritime Program, including control over the coastal waters of Liberia and the fishing vessels that operate in our coastal waters. The LMA currently uses the services of the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR) as its agent to aid the Government in the management of the Liberian Registry and to administer the provisions of the Liberia Maritime laws.

In addition, the Liberian registry is the first, and so far, the only major open registry to have trained a world-wide network of leading auditors in both International Safety Management (ISM) and International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code). By harmonizing the overlapping requirements of these International Codes, the Liberian registry seeks to provide ship owners convenient, efficient and cost-effective certification services.

The LMA is striving to empower young Liberians in the maritime sector by identifying high potential talent, ensuring they have access to quality training and placing them in appropriate positions in the Liberian workforce. Media institutions like the Corruption Watch, needs to challenge the LMA on the issues of Corporate Strategic Management and Industry Development. What new inroads are being focused on to boom the maritime sector?

In South Africa, the government is now spearheading a drive to arrest the decline in the shipping registry program. They are even trying to model their program after us! In several areas of the maritime industry, we are just far ahead in Africa. Yes, we have severe shortcomings in our coastline management process. The beauty and length of our shores should provide jobs for over 2 million of people. We have fantastic beaches that could attract millions of tourists, by extension provide jobs and increase our revenue base.

Yes, we need to focus on avoiding road traffic by ferrying people between Paynesville and Mamba Point. We need to source funding using other means through our maritime sector and I suppose we can do this. This is what a serious journalist invests his/her time into other than trying to concern himself or herself with someone’s salary? Do you know how much the guys make on Wall Street? This is a mean-spirited use of anybody’s time! Mr. Editor, thanks for allowing me to interact with the public.

For any inquires about this paper, please raise this with me on email: amfahnbo@yahoo.com

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