Reflection: The Liberia Media Center – 5 yrs. and the Changing Media Landscape
The Liberia Media Center turns five on August 26, 2010. The center started as a joint initiative of the Liberian media community led by the Press Union of Liberia and the Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa.
Five years down the road from being housed in a section of the current Press Union of Liberia Headquarters, the center moved to its own location in 2007 and has expanded its activities in all but one of Liberia’s 15 counties.
Generally speaking, the media sector can best be described as improving five years from our inception. From the competition to present appealing layout looks, to diversification of contents on human rights, governance, and the economy, the media is showing signs of steady growth and commercial sustainability. Also, the penetration of newspapers in rural centers and the rapid growth of community radio add to the growing list of alternatives to accessing information.
While there still remains a plethora of challenges including the lack of professional development opportunities, low wages and a host of ethical and journalism standard issues, the media sector has transitioned into a more stable sector in five years.
The challenge of maintaining newspapers as vibrant businesses still looms but the modest efforts by print media owners to keep their papers running with some degree of regularity must be recognized. Only one in fifteen commercial radio station based in Monrovia went off the air in the last five years due to economic reasons, which accounts for the degree of managerial fidelity shown by the broadcast media sector.
Along these lines, we have worked together with our partners in providing the necessary spearhead for solidifying the media’s work on issues of investigative journalism, freedom of expression, self- regulatory mechanisms and a broader strategy for media support.
Through our various programs and collaborations, we have enhanced human rights education for journalists across the country and improved the capacity of community radio stations on the production of better programs and in keeping with technological advances. Today we work with roughly 17 community based radio stations in 11 of the country’s 15 counties, training over three hundred community radio staff in basic journalism and technical training.
As part of our interventions, each of these stations has been built to the minimum equivalent of a Monrovia-based FM radio station with equipment in costing in excess of 30,000.00 USD per station. In these efforts we successfully managed two high profile media development programs in partnership with RNTC (Netherlands) and JHR (Canada), as well as numerous other activities linked to gathering and analysis of useful statistics on media use towards the full development of the country. Such activities were undertaken with partners as diverse as TrustAfrica, ActionAid Liberia, UNESCO, OSIWA and the World Bank.
As a fundamental principle, we try to take advantage of conventional technology, keeping in mind the principles of freedom of expression as a cardinal goal in the proper functioning of the media, as well as supporting the evolution of democracy in Liberia and the promotion of the government flagship – Poverty Reduction Strategy.
We take keen note of recent efforts to further democratize our system of governance through the passage of the Freedom of Information Act by the House of Representative. We call on members of the Senate to emulate the illustrious undertaking of the counterparts and ensure a smooth and timely passage of the Bill. The FOI law and the process leading to its implementation are and must remain Liberian driven while we welcome the support of our all international partners and stakeholders.
As we drive towards 2011, wherein the first civil transition in nearly 40 years is anticipated, we envision an even stronger role in improving the circumstances of the media to professionally report on these occurrences, knowing fully well that the successes we score will be evaluated towards the sustenance of peace in Liberia.
Once more the LMC family extends its best wishes to all of its staff, partners, sponsors and beneficiaries for the level of cooperation we continue to enjoy. Join us let’s celebrate!!!!!!!
Liberia Media Center