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LMC conducts forum on Forest Governance

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The Liberia Media Center (LMC) with support from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) through the Multi-Stakeholders Forest Governance Project (MFGAP) has concluded a one-day editors’ forum to build a leading network of editors from the print and electronic news organizations throughout Liberia.

The editors’ forum, held last Friday, September 18, 2020 at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia, was attended by several editors from both the print and electronic media.

It focused on Forest Governance within the context of the Voluntary Partner Agreement (VPA) between the European Union (EU) and Liberia aimed at building upon a commitment to improve reportage around the forest sector and to promote editorial excellence.

Addressing the forum, panelists called on journalists to also focus on development stories in their reportage.

Press Union of Liberia’s (PUL) President Charles Coffey; Heritage Partners and Associate (HPA) representative Atty. Sagie F. Kamara, Sr.; and the Forestry Development Agency (FDA) Managing Director C. Mike Doyen, said the forest sector of Liberia needs attention in the reportage of the media.

The three panelists observed that the media is focused more on politics than development.

Mounting the podium, PUL President Coffey called on journalists to begin to set the agenda for forest governance and best practices in the country that will create awareness amongst the people from destroying Liberian wildlife and nature.

Mr. Coffey pointed out that there are concerns in the public that journalists of the local media are under reporting the forest sector and other developmental initiatives, saying most of their reportage is on politics.

He said the media can influence good forest governances that could engender best practices as provided for in the VPA, provided reporters and editors make those issues media agenda items.

For his part, the HPA representative, Atty. Kamara implored forest trained journalists to accomplish the tasks for which they were trained, adding that it does not need special forest reporting training in colleges and universities to equip journalists to effectively create awareness amongst the people on forest preservation and governance.

Kamara noted that it is difficult to achieve the kind of specialization that some journalists may want to shift their trend of reporting from politics to other spheres of societal engagements. He said researching the Constitution and the laws in relation to the sector and the VPA will generate the appropriate awareness of forest governance amongst the citizenry of the country. The VPA, he said, is part of the international laws Liberia is signatory to.

He implored journalists to take advantage of the Freedom of Information Act to enhance their reportage of forest governance and other development stories.

At the same time, FDA Managing Director Mike Doyen historicized the establishment of the Forestry Development Authority and disclosed that the FDA does not have autonomy, saying that funds generated by the institution from its operations goes to the government’s consolidated account.

He disclosed that the key in forestry is “sustainable forest management” and added that 30% of the Liberian forest by law is put aside for conservation, explaining that 1.2 million hectors of the forest is off limit to human activities.

Mr. Doyen said 400, 000 hectors of the forest is protected and pointed out that there are three national parks, adding “All of these are done to promote environmental stability in the country.”

Speaking about economic stability of the forest, Doyen said the Voluntary Partnership Agreement signed between Liberia and the EU in 2011, along with other laws, intends to protect the use of the forest, and therefore focus on forest governance. “Each log extracted from the forest is from a source,” he explained, adding “… at least 50% of the logs cut from the Liberian forest stays in the country in the form of taxes.”

He also intimated that traditional forests containing sacred places are protected from harvesting, but clarified that logging in these forest sources is done based on negotiation.

Regarding “livelihood versus forest protection,” the FDA boss said the FDA is moving forward with its green economy program and has conducted a study from which data obtained will be used to monitor deforestation and the health of the Liberian forest, as well as eco-tourism development in the country, etc.

He noted that Liberia is moving from wildlife hunting to a country that respects animals’ rights.

Besides, he indicated that there are policies in place against pit-sawing, and for cut-off residue regulation. The policies, he maintained, would create more jobs in the sector.

“We have taken significant steps towards forest governance and have made enormous progress in the sector, but there are still challenges,” Mr. Doyen concluded.

Meanwhile, a staff at the LMC, Mr. Bill Jarkloh, who moderated the forum, said the occasion was intended to help editors of media institutions associated with the MFGAP to identify newsroom innovations, trends, tools and practices.

By this, he said participants will share intelligence through their interactions, networking events, research and editorial policies,

For his part, the Project Coordinator for MFGAP at the LMC, Mr. Francis S. Brewer disclosed that the Forum followed the training of 52 Liberian journalists who benefitted from two rounds of training that focused on basic facts about the VPA and other legal frameworks that govern the forest sector and investigative reporting.

Editing by Jonathan Browne

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