The head for the Independent Information Commission, Cllr. Mark Bedor-Wla Freeman, also a former President of the Press Union of Liberia says, the relationship between the Government of Liberia and the Press is not bad, but there is room for improvement.
Speaking to this paper recently in an interview, Commissioner Freeman explains that there should be smooth relationship between the Press and the government, noting that certain incidents and events have been allowed to go out of control, which have projected the image that both parties are not working together.
“There have been tough moments in the relationship between the government and the media; I think what is really hampering the relationship is that you have people who are extremists in both the government and the media. There are some Journalists who think they should see the government as their enemy, and also there are some government officials, who think that the media plays no role in how the country is governed”, he says.
He suggests that the government and the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia should sit and discuss in finding solutions, noting that as the government is fighting corruption, the media needs to help government in the fight.
According to him, if government in its own way supports the media, it would also help to increase access to Information as well as strengthen the ability and capacity of media institutions to perform their duties.
“There are right now so much going on in the counties, the World Press Freedom Day is celebrated in Maryland but because of the distance and the logistical constrains, most of the media institutions were not able to send people for the celebration and also there are a lot of new events going on in other parts of the country.”
Cllr. Freeman continues that some media houses are doing well, but they are unable to employ competent staff, stressing that the more qualified the staff, the more money they should be paid and media don’t have that kind of money.
He points out that the Freedom of Information Act says it is the responsibility of the government through the budget to support the Independent Information Commission, and government has provided funding for the Commission, but it is not enough to run the IIC to the level expected.
He says the Commission should be in the various counties, but due to lack of adequate funding, it is based only in Monrovia, where it has operated for almost six years.
The IIC boss further explains that the mandate of the Commission is to help members of the public who go in search of public information, but they are denied.
However, he stresses that not all information is for public consumption, saying that some information is personal and should be kept as a secret.
By Ethel A. Tweh–Editing by Jonathan Browne