“An Independent Media is an Incentive for National Growth and Development “ -Panelists at PUL Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum Assert

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Panelists at the Wednesday, June 9, 2021 edition of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) flagship intellectual symposium, the Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum have identified an independent and strong media as a catalyst for driving national growth and development.

The PUL staged the forum in partnership with the Volunteers for Sustainable Development in Africa – VOSIEDA and the Department of Communications and Media Studies at the University of Liberia at the I-campus on Carey Street in Monrovia.

The forum was held under the theme: “Strengthening Independent Media and Freedom of information in Liberia “.

Serving as panelists were Mulugeta Abebe, Deputy   Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Tetee Karneh, Manager Spoon Communications Network, and Attorney. Alphonsus Zeon, a media specialist.

Reflecting on what she terms more than ten decades of the contributions of the media to Liberia’s growth and development, Madam Kanneh observed that the Liberian has always played a pivotal role in helping the country in its orbit from a period of crisis to a period of democratic governance and peace.

“It is without an ounce of doubt that the media has been a crucial player in Liberia’s development and peace consolidation efforts.“ Karneh said while recounting her own experience along with other journalists in covering the disarmament of former combatants of the country’s civil war.

“The media was all out in helping the country transition from war to peace and from peace to development. “ Karneh added.

She however said while such an enviable role of the media is always applauded; the dignity of media practitioners cannot be overemphasized.

“Journalists need better remuneration for the job we do.  “Stressed Karneh as she addressed the audience at I-Campus in Monrovia.

“The dignity of journalists often impacts the quality of work media practitioners deliver to society.

“The way we [journalists] treat ourselves as journalists sends a message on how we want the society to see us [journalists].”  The Spoon Communications Network Manager asserted.

She challenged her colleagues in the media to help facilitate public discourses in ways that help inform national development and transformation.

“As journalists, we should use our various outlets or platforms to facilitate discussions that help inform public decisions and policies for the greater good of the society. “ Karneh pointed out.

Atty. Alphonsus Zeon commended efforts by President George Weah to improve the media climate in Liberia; citing the signing into law of the Kamara Abdullah Kamara Press Freedom Act as an example.

Atty. Zeon was quick to note that such efforts were being undermined by reports of persistent attacks on  media practitioners by state actors ; especially those in the security sector.

“The PUL has cried out to the government; complaining of attacks on its members,“ Zeon explained.

“Such cries led to the setting up a special committee to investigate reports of attacks on the media. But unfortunately, nothing has been heard of the Lawrence Bropleh’s committee. “Noted, Zeon.

However, attacks on the media are not new developments; pointing to the arrest and imprisonment of the News Newspaper editorial team in the 2000s by state operatives in Charles Taylor’s government.

“Journalists at the News Newspaper were arrested and manhandled for simply reporting that the Taylor’s government was spending huge sums on the purchase of helicopters while civil servants were not being paid for several months. “ Zeon recounted.

Zeon however reminded journalists that press freedom comes with responsibility.

“Responsible journalism is reporting the facts and not making up stories and using the media to insult people. “  Zeon pointed out.

“That is why we need a national media council that will be a proactive institution to curb excesses and abuse of the media landscape. “

On the issue of the economy of the media, Zeon suggested the state’s financing of the media in ways that ensure that the media as an element of the state benefits from taxes being generated.

“The media can be supported in ways that will help address some of the challenges it is faced with.               “This is no way intended to sell the media to the government. “ Zeon clarified.

“Support to the media is engrained in the ECOWAS protocol on governance and democracy which urges states to support the media as a partner in democratic consolidation. “ Zeon added.

For his part, UNDP – Deputy Resident Representative for operations Mulugeta Abebe encouraged the Liberian media to serve as a strategic partner in the promotion of good governance and accountability.

Abebe noted that the media has a critical role to play in the delivery of what he called crucial social services to the people.

Abebe observed that the media can help the government and partners address the needs of the people by reporting on issues impacting their lives.

He described the media as a critical vehicle for ensuring an accountable management of resources in any society.

He also encouraged the media to be promoters of peace and development; saying sustainable development is tied to peace as peace is tied to “sustainable development.

“The media helps in creating an enlightened society so the role of the media in any society cannot be overemphasized. “  Observed, Abebe.

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