The President of the University of Liberia (UL) Rev. Dr. Julius Julukon Sarwolo Nelson says the Department of Media and Communication Studies at UL will train 250 freelance and rural journalists in legal provisions as enshrined in Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution.
In a keynote speech on UL’s Capitol Hill Campus Tuesday, 15 June at a program hosted by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on the implementation of the project: “Strengthening Independent Media and Freedom of Information in Liberia,” Dr. Nelson said it is a known fact that the Constitution of Liberia guarantees freedom of expression especially of the press, as well as a Freedom of Information law that was enacted in 2010.
“For our part at the University of Liberia, the Department of Media and Communication Studies will develop a training manual on the legal know-how, personal safety, and security, train beneficiaries or journalists in the legal know-how, personal safety, and security, to ensure safety when reporting from dangerous zones, and train 250 freelance and rural journalists in legal provisions as enshrined in Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution,” he said.
He however reminded journalists that freedom of expression and the press is a right given to all, but should not be abused because everyone is accountable for whatever they express, whether as the press or private citizens.
“We owe it all to our country, to support our national agenda, and present the clearest picture possible, but showcasing the positives and not only the negatives,” he added.
Dr. Nelson explained that in the partnership between UL and PUL, the umbrella media body is expected to investigate and analyze 20 cases of violence against journalists across Liberia.
He added that the PUL is expected to evaluate cases of violence, summarize causes, impact and lessons learned, publish and distribute personal safety measures, identify and recruit 250 journalists for training ensuring that 70% are females, and establish a national journalist’s peer support network.
“It is also worth noting that the project will address most Liberians’ needs, especially youth, women, and other vulnerable groups which have pessimistic government views,” he noted.
Dr. Nelson indicated that a free press can inform citizens of their leaders’ successes or failures, it can convey the people’s needs and desires to government bodies, and also provide a platform for exchanging information and ideas.
“When media freedom is restricted, all of these will not be possible, leading to poor decision-making and harmful outcomes for both our leaders and citizens alike,” he said.
He commended the organizing and implementing partners because the project will strengthen the independence of the media and freedom of information in Liberia, adding that it will also improve the environment of press freedom, journalistic safety, and self-regulation through favorable policies and practices.
“It will also engender an active citizen demand for transparency of the media and of government’s activities while at the same time, bolstering CSOs, media, and government collaborations in accessing and using public data,” Dr. Nelson stressed.
Mr. Charles Cuffey, President of the Press Union of Liberia said under this project, the union is expected to investigate and analyse cases of violence against journalists across Liberia, evaluate cases of violence and summarize causes, impact and lessons learned.
Mr. Cuffey said the union is also expected to publish and distribute personal safety measures, identify and recruit 250 journalists for training, with 70 percent of participants being females.
“So this is welcoming. In democracy, the media is fundamental to political life, it provides facts to allow us to be better informed about the issues that affect our country or the world. It also provides criticism and debate to ensure that the information is tested, examined for everyone from all sides and point of view,” he said.
Mr. Cuffey noted that this training is very unique for the growth of the media here, noting that the PUL has been in the vanguard seeking media freedom, ranging from ascending to the declaration of Table Mountain to the passage of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara (KAK) Act of Press Freedom, among others.
For his part, Assistant Prof. Uriahs Togar, Chairman of the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Liberia said the project is very significant because the media’s role is pivotal in a society, especially in a democracy like Liberia that is still under development.
Prof. Togar noted that decisions should be made based on information provided by the media, and that for the media to provide information, it must have access to information, which he said is still a challenge. By Winston W. Parley