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Stand strong; don’t sway

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-UNDP Resident Rep. tells Liberian media

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Resident Representative to Liberia, Mr. Stephen Rodriques has told media practitioners here to stand strong and not sway from their professional values for financial gains.

“Despite the challenges you face, we want you to stand strong. Don’t sway from your values for financial gains,” Mr. Rodriques cautioned here Wednesday, May 26 during an engagement with the local media.
He further stressed the importance of the media in any given democratic dispensation saying, “the media is important in promoting good governance, accountability, transparency, pressing more the state and the private sector to be transparent and more open but also creating a more informed citizenry.”

Mr. Rodrigues emphasized that the media need to be strong to ensure citizens have accurate information that they can discuss and debate issues relating to the development of their country, their community and so on.

The UNDP boss said this is also vital to the foundation, that’s the platform on which everything else happens.

The Liberia media industry is one of the poorest in Liberia with many media institutions being unable to meet their overheads, let alone pay rent or staff salaries. As a result, there has been exodus of experienced practitioners from the profession, leaving behind just a handful of professionals. Yet, it is needed to maintain the peace, promote good governance and uphold democratic tenants in the country.
To this, Mr. Rodriques maintained that the media is an integral part of any society and that it is important that the media in Liberia remain strong.

“Because if you don’t have capable, responsive, accountable public institutions, it’s almost impossible to have good education, good health, good environment, management and so on. So within this context a strong, robust, and vibrant media is regarded as an essential condition for development to take place because it forms part of that foundation of building good governance and a well-informed citizenry. So we are aware that the media in Liberia has many, many challenges.”

He said the media plays a key role in promoting peace and sustaining a peaceful society hence, UNDP is therefore committed to working with the media in Liberia to support the country’s sustainable development.

The UNDP Resident Representative continued that public information is increasingly recognized as contributing to individuals’ awareness, knowledge, and ultimately perceptions and attitudes about events and programs happening around them, including efforts at building peace and resolving conflicts.

He noted that a functional independence of the press requires a combination of legal and economic safeguards that are lacking currently, but with the role of the media, he said the population is gradually experiencing the growth and respect for free speech and fundamental rights.

He said UNDP is aware of enormous challenges the Liberian media is faced with and applauded the courageous spirit media personnel continue to exercise despite those challenges to ensure the population is well informed, but cautioned, “This means that you have a duty and obligation as per your code of ethics, to ensure that the information you share with the general public is clear, accurate and balanced.”
Liberian publishers recently called for paradigm shift in the way international support to the Liberian media is utilized.

The President of the Publishers Association of Liberia Othello B. Garblah suggested that rather than conducting two weeks, one week or three days’ training or workshops for journalists, the media needs grants and logistical support to build their operational capacity. The PAL is a conglomeration of newspapers and online outlets in the country.

He said such grants and support should come along with set benchmarks that media managers, including publishers, would have to meet in order to qualify for future engagements. “This is a fact: for instance, some media institutions just can’t afford to buy newsprint and [underwrite] other rising operational costs on a daily basis, let alone to regularly pay staff”, he lamented.

Addressing a forum Tuesday, May 18, 2021 at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Mr. Garblah explained the situation is even compounded by delays in payment of advertising services rendered to clients, including the government, which remains the major advertiser in the country.

He also frowned on international non-government organizations and others directing their advertisements to the Executive Mansion’s website that is under President George Weah thus, depriving media institutions of much-needed advertisement revenues.

“This is an idea that media development partners need to consider as we work together in strengthening the press in Liberia. We have had series of professional training programs. But in the absence of vibrant institutions, journalists are turning their backs on the newsroom to seek a better life”, he revealed.

Mr. Rodriques said the UNDP understands the acute economic situation faced by many media outlets in the country to stay afloat financially and economically, noting most of the media entities rely on adverts that may not be as regular as expected and insufficient to attract the quality of human resource capacity needed.

“We urge you not to lose hope, neither circumvent your professionalism as watchdogs of the society for financial gains. You must be among the heroes/heroines that Liberians and the world at large can celebrate as you make the sacrifices for peace, accountability and stability as seen in the work that you do”, he concluded.

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