PAL Calls for Direct Media Support -Wants Media Dev. Partners, Govt to Strengthen Media thru Direct Support

MONROVIA – The newly inducted President of the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), Mr. Othello Garblah, says despite the traditional media’s long involvement in the struggle for democracy in Liberia, the print media continues to endure economic hardship borne by the tendencies of media development partners to invest in endless workshops rather than economically empowering the print media institutions to be more independent; while the Government of Liberia on the other hand, continues to keep the print media stagnated by the GOL refusal to settle media engagement arrears owed member institutions of the PAL.

“Since the incumbency of President George Manneh Weah, the Liberian media is somehow lagging behind in its transformation programs after nearly two decades of peace apparently due to donors’ misguided projects intended to empower the media to become viable to meet present day realities and challenges, as was done in other African countries; such as Rwanda, Uganda, Botswana, Ghana, South Africa among others following their respective struggle for democratic governance.

“Perhaps, due to lack of strategic program to support the traditional media economically, there appears to be a decline in ethical and professional journalism in Liberia. Also, there is a huge exodus of professional journalists to greener pastures such as banks, NGOs, public sector or state-operatives media outlets due to lack of improved economic benefits.

“Most media owners said people are abandoning the independent media (Print) because of the harsh economic environment to address pressing issues like staff incentives, huge overhead expenditure including investigative news gathering, electricity, newsprints, as well as other media related supplies, not precluding office rent.

“More than that, the country’s economic environment is getting worst on a weekly basis, and the survival of any newspaper rests on its economic viability emanating from adverts or commercial contracts, but instead even the few adverts published, payments are hard to come by,” PAL president Garblah lamented.

He said, ironically, while Liberia’s new dispensation of democracy has led to the upsurge of more than 30 newspapers, unfortunately the print media in Liberia is yet to benefit directly from the much-publicized international goodwill economically.

“Surprisingly, the print media, nucleus of the traditional media, is victim of local implementing partners’ conspiracy theory to keep the media in poverty, despite millions of donors’ funding sent to Liberia for media development and assistance projects. 

“However, in the face of COVID-19 Pandemic, media economic sustainability for ethical journalism is still unattended to, and as other important sectors like governance, rule of law, and energy are under resuscitation by the international community, the Liberian print media continue to languish in poverty and misery.

“Media experts have also opined at various media related gatherings that for the traditional media mainly the print to uphold its ethical standards, and help fight abuse and waste, it would largely require media development partners to economically support the media through grants, investigative projects and other sustainable programs that would propel the capacity of this sector as the country prepares for very crucial Presidential and Legislative elections, come 2023.

“These media experts believe that instead of donors spending millions on workshops; it is about time that the international donors refocus their attention on media economic empowerment projects,” Garblah noted.

He said it is a known fact the government and Liberian press are on a collision course emanating from the confidence crisis, which is negatively affecting the media’s economic survival.

“The media is of the view that the government sidelined the sector and politicized adverts due to its apparent critical posture following the 2017 elections, such as the payments of media debts coupled with COVID-19. The media remains the victim of a bad economy and global pandemic, as several media houses are shutting down and qualified journalists trooping to state-operative institutions, and the once vibrant professional sector is lying in poverty, while the international donor community wastes its resources on unscrupulous implementing partners.

 “The second situation at hand had to do with the lack of due payments by members. Knowing Liberians for not paying dues, PAL is no exception as members have failed to pay their respective dues despite demands for benefits thereto,” President Garblah stated.

PAL Interventions

According to Garblah, PAL over the last few years has worked with some donor partners including Internews and the Press Union of Liberia to come up with some self-regulatory framework documents for practitioners and a standalone draft legislation on the protection of personal data privacy.

“Through our back-channel negotiations, we were instrumental in securing funds for some of our colleagues to seek medical attention outside the country. We were also able to rally a small purse for one of our ailing colleagues who came down with a stroke to help secure medication; and recently we made a small contribution to another colleague to seek medical attention. This is part of our social responsibilities to members of our organization,” Garblah recounted.

Plans for the next three years

The new PAL leadership says it plans over the next three years of our leadership to focus its attention on improving the Association’s revenue generation scheme to help improve financial viability as the PAL heads towards the 2023 general and presidential elections.

“Programs to be considered are the building of a PAL website that will have links of all PAL member websites; monetizing the websites; construction of newsstands to expand circulation in major county capitals where receipt of hardcopies of newspapers have been challenging amid poor internet connectivity.

“The construction of the newsstands when actualized will not only increase our revenue generation but also provide jobs for individuals posted in these newsstands that will earn commissions based on daily sales,” Mr. Garblah stated.

The PAL and 2023 Presidential and General Elections

According to Mr. Garblah, as the country moves towards the upcoming 2023 general and presidential elections, there are ongoing discussions among members to at least for the first time in the Republic of Liberia to see whether it is possible to endorse a presidential candidate that the PAL believes has the right platform to move the country forward for the next six years.

The occasion was graced by the presence of the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, J. Aloysius Tarlue, who served as Induction officer; while outgoing PUL president Charles Cuffey; as well as InterNews Chief of Party Lien Bach, among others were in attendance.

Those inducted included Othello Garblah, Publisher of New Dawn Newspaper, President; Sam O. Dean, Publisher of Independent Newspaper, Vice President; and Abraham Ansumana Donzo, Publisher of Public Agenda, Financial Secretary.

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