The President of the Press Union of Liberia, Mr. Charles Coffey, Jr has underscored the need for support to the media through public finance which he believes will help scores of media institutions build robust businesses, strong enough to hold governments to account, expose corruption and provide a platform for debate.
Mr. Coffey made the call when he spoke at a two day International Colloquium on Private Media held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, held on November 29 and 30, 2021 which was attended by a number of delegations around Africa.
“Public financing will further provide affordable debt and equity financing to independent or private media particularly in a range of countries where access to free and independent news and information is under threat”, he said.
The leader of the media fraternity in Liberia said while there may exist two schools of thoughts as it relates to funding private media with one school suggesting that providing direct budgetary support to private media will compromise them and another suggesting that such process will empower the media to ensure objectivity, fairness and good journalism, he fully supports public financial support to all media because the national budget is for everyone and it is impossible for government to manipulate all the media or control the media wrongfully
He said owing to the lack of public funding the private media are surviving on advertisements and special programs and that with the emergence of the new media, traditional methods of generating finances cannot adequately solve the economic problem of the Liberian media.
“By empowering private and public media institutions will enable them to cultivate economic opportunities thus ensuring a strong and inclusive growth of the media”, he said.
While commending other African Countries whose governments are providing direct public funding to their media, he stressed that there is a need for Africa governments to provide direct budgetary support for both private and public media. He said the no money syndrome is forcing some private media institutions into self-censorship.
In discussing the economy of the Liberian media, he said there is no government subsidy for its private media and the country’s media reform initiatives are solely supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other nongovernmental organizations.
He stated further that though the Liberian government has made significant strides in promoting press freedom, freedom of expression and it is the largest advertiser with the media, it is not providing direct budgetary support to private media
He said for the case of Liberia, public financing in an economy of over two hundred media outlets including radios, traditional televisions, online televisions and newspapers, most of which lacked access to basic financial services, can be brought into formal financial networks for financial inclusion if adequate public funds are provided.
“By empowering private and public media institutions will enable them cultivate economic opportunities thus ensuring a strong and inclusive growth of the media”, he said.
Mr. Coffey lamented that the situation is becoming increasingly uncontrollable such that most media owners are not adequately paying their staff with reporters being victims of the situation.
He said he was hopeful that the Colloquium will determine the best course of action aimed at improving the economy of the media and prevailing on the respective governments and people to see media financing initiatives as top priority.
Among other things he said the fight for Press Freedom is essential in a world where harassment, violence against journalists and attacks on media independence is threatening the right to news and information.
The President of the Press Union of Liberia, Charles B. Coffey, Jr. has departed the country for an international media colloquium in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
It can be recalled that Mr. Coffey travelled to Cote d’Ivoire to attend the media symposium which was organized by the Cote d’Ivoire based Press Support and Development Fund (FSDP) from November 29-30, 2021 on the theme: “What strategies for sustainable support for media development in the ECOWAS region”.
Media Executives from the ECOWAS region and other specialists as part of the conference shared experiences of organizations managing public aid to the media, from countries in the sub-region. Liberia has no government subsidy for its media and the country’s media reforms initiatives are solely supported by USAID and other international nongovernmental organizations. Government is the largest advertiser with the media in Liberia in an economy of over two hundred outlets (newspapers, radios, televisions & online televisions).
Press Union of Liberia President Coffey was one of many delegates from West Africa who presented a paper on the financing of media institutions.
According to the organizers, the media colloquium’s objective was in line with the vision of la Côte d’Ivoire Minister of Communication, Media, and Francophonie.