U.S. Government reaffirms support to Liberian media
By Lewis S. Teh
The Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy near Monrovia Mr. Joel Maybury has reaffirmed the U.S. government’s continued support to the media in Liberia, saying America is and will remain a critical partner in Liberia’s developmental drive.
“As Liberia takes steps to improve its democracy, I believe that the U.S. government through the USAID will remain a committed partner to this media activity.
We will continue to support and look forward to having a well-collaborating relationship with all of you on this new project, the government, civil society, and other development agencies”, Mr. Maybury says.
He made the commitment Thursday, March 17, 2022, at Boulevard Palace Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia during official launch of USAID media activity, a five-year project in collaboration with Liberian media partners, including the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), Liberia Media for Democratic Initiative (LMDI), Association of Liberia Community Radio (ALICOR), Youth Media Action or YMA, Female Journalist Association of Liberia (FEJAL) and Talking Drum Studio, implemented by Internews.
The U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission says he’s impressed with Liberia’s vibrant media for the past seven months he has spent in Liberia.
He says despite serious economic challenges, Liberia has done a lot in its media sector, saying “I think there’s a lot that is currently ongoing, and for this, I would like to congratulate Liberian media stakeholders and the government for maintaining a free and open media environment.”
Mr. Maybury notes that the enactment of the K.A.K Act of 2019 has helped to solidify press freedom in the country, adding that the U.S. Government has been a proud partner to Liberian media by supporting its activities, including helping to strengthen priorities of voices on local media platforms, providing training with specific focus on female journalists.
However, he says despite the achievement, several barriers remain that are stopping the media from performing its duties in Liberia.
“As President Biden [said]during the recent summit, a free and independent media is the bedrock of democracy.”
He stresses that it’s important to strengthen the Liberian media sector as a vehicle of transformation to build sustainable change and national ownership.
Ambassador Maybury narrates that the USAID media activity being implemented by Internews will help strengthen the sustainability of community radio stations, newspapers and other media outlets.
He says the media activity will further enhance capacity of the Liberian media that would enable citizens to engage with their leaders through the media.
“Importantly, the media activity will boost efforts to support, defend, and protect investigative journalists, and other civil society actors on the frontline in the fight against corruption”, Mr. Maybury adds.
Giving an overview of the media activity, the Chief of Party of Internews, Ms. Lien Bach narrates that the institution provides technical support to 18 media houses to expand local community network, and develop a business plan that will move them into a place where they can be happy.
She says Internews has provided several training workshops for Liberian media personnel, including students from high school press clubs.
“We have established a sustainable media center that is being used by local journalists and citizens in rural areas,” Ms. Bach reveals and adds that since its inception, over five thousand people have visited the media center in Ganta, Nimba County.
“We also facilitated the adoption of the new code of ethics for journalists and the establishment of a new regulatory body and the new media council. Despite all these successes, we still need to support the media sector here in Liberia to make it independent so as to enable its members to report investigative and broadcast high-quality stories.”
She continues that there is still a need for the establishment of legal media houses that will ensure safety of journalists and allow them to have access to the Freedom of Information Act.
“It is necessary to address gender inequality in the Liberian media as women continue to face numerous social barriers to fully participate in media activities, and only account for a quarter of the media in the society”, the Internews Chief of Party observes.
For his part, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Mr. Charles Coffey extols USAID for the launch of its five years media activity, adding that the launch is a clear indication of USAID’s support to media development here.
“This project”, Mr. Coffey notes, “will bring countless dividends to our country, because it is designed to boost the human and institutional capacity of the media sector while advocating for the maintenance of the current media freedom.”
By meaningfully enhancing media capacity, he says the project will help to improve the media’s ability to produce, reliable, proper, and factual news that will serve as a conduit in disseminating information between citizens and government.
Mr. Coffey however notes that the financial sustainability of community radio stations is key in the five-year project because most community radio stations lack adequate funding to address their broadcast needs
The launch brought together senior officials from government line ministries and agencies, members of the legislature, media development partners, civil society organizations, and members of the donor community, among others. Editing by Jonathan Browne