Home Governance Media Ownership ‘Bonanza’ … PUL Barks At Politicians For Using Media As “Weapons”

Media Ownership ‘Bonanza’ … PUL Barks At Politicians For Using Media As “Weapons”

by News Manager

MONROVIA: The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Mr. Charles B. Coffey, has observed that political ownership of the media is contributing to some “bad tastes” being experienced by the public.

According to him, “not all, but some politicians are using their media institutions as political weapons.”

He stressed the need for such practice to be stopped, because trust is being eroded and the public perception depicting high level of unprofessionalism in the media is growing.
Speaking at the formal launch of the USAID’S Five- Year Media Activity Project on Friday, March 17, 2022, at a local hotel in Monrovia, the Press Union of Liberia President indicated that there is also a problem with the issue of trust and credibility in the media, which includes the subject matter of “fake news” and hate speech.

“Therefore, a nationally owned media development program aimed at complimenting donor’s media development initiatives, is urgently needed to employ in-depth reforms across the media,” he said.

Coffey pointed that consequently, Liberia needs collaborative efforts, involving the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), as well as all other relevant individuals and institutions managing Liberia’s resources to look in the national coffers to ensure exhaustive reform.

Although Mr. Coffey did not name some of the politicians who own and operate media institutions in the country, informed sources indicate that some leading politicians including Liberty Party’s embattled Chairman, Musa Hassan Bility, operates the famous Truth FM and subsidiaries stations in rural Liberia while Montserrado District#15 Representative, Abu B. Kamara, has a conglomeration of media outlets.

The system has a chain of media outlets. Business Man turned politician, All Liberian Party (ALP) political leader, Benoni Urey equally has media entities.

Other politicians are using operatives to manage their media outlets.

However, the PUL President said reform mechanisms will fully facilitate fellowships, targeting thematic areas, like rural development, health, education, water, sanitation, women and children protection, governance and rule of law.

According to him, these sustained initiatives may help improve contents across the media, and furthermore, investing in the media will attract professionals who have left to return to the newsrooms.

He emphasized that the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and other national media development organizations are in the vanguard, presently working with the administration of President George M. Weah towards the improvement of the legal operating environment of the media.

Coffey noted that the drafting of an independent media commission bill seeking state regulation is in progress while the national media council of the Press Union of Liberia will be maintained.

“The council is a self-regulatory framework instituted to ensure professionalism and dispute resolution emanating from media products,” he stressed.

“This system of regulation is conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media. It will further provide an opportunity for appreciable level of economic playing field and transparency of media ownership,” he stressed.

Torching on the formal Launch of USAID’S Five- Year Media Activity Project, the PUL President said that the formal launch of the USAID Media Activity in Liberia is a clear indication of its unflinching support to media development in the country.

He further asserted that the project will bring countless dividends to Liberia, because it is designed to boost human and institutional capacity of the media sector, while advocating for and maintaining current media freedoms to reliably carry out responsible journalism, drive reforms, and increase revenue.

Coffer pointed out that by meaningfully enhancing media capacity, the project will also improve media ability to produce reliable, proper, and factual news that will serve as a conduit for information dissemination among citizens, and government, most importantly, the financial sustainability of community radio stations, is key to in the five-year project.

“Most community radios lack adequate funding to address their broadcast needs, as required 30 radio stations including community radio and commercial stations will be supported by the USAID Media Activity,” he stressed.

He, however, added that this is a positive step forward in developing the capacity of the Liberian media. These initiatives are intended to increase collaboration in executing plans, strategic USAID media activities and strengthen the enabling environment for free media.

“As it may be aware, the program approach focuses on innovation and local ownership that incorporates cross-cutting themes relevant to USAID Mission in Liberia, which of course includes promoting gender mainstreaming, youth empowerment, enhancing rural voices, and improving essential services to marginalized communities,” the PUL President noted.

He told the gathering that words are inadequate to express his honest commendation to the United States government, or USAID, our partners for this worthy venture, because media development is both knowledge-driven and context sensitive, taking into account challenges and opportunities created by the rapidly changing media environment.

“As a lack of media capacity leads to information accuracy becoming a problem. Accurate, balanced and fair information is a perfect recipe for an independent and free press which is at the core of equitable development,” he indicated.

The public looks up to a professional, credible and objective media to expose corruption, and keep check on public policies by throwing a spotlight on government action. The media lets people voice diverse opinions on governance and reforms, and help build public consensus to bring about change.

Moreover, the media facilitate trade, transmitting ideas and innovation across boundaries. The media is also important for human development, bringing health and education information to remote villages.
However, economic factors are often cited as constraints to media development.

“As experience has shown,” he said, “the independence of the media can be fragile and easily compromised, if it lacks financial freedom or independence.”

“I am of the conviction, that business training and other support like loan, will help news outlets committed to responsible journalism become commercially sustainable, believing that only financially independent news media can stay editorially independent over a long term. Currently, the Liberian media is struggling in the areas of finance, content and professional capacity development,” he pointed out.
Coffey: “Highly related to a lack of media capacity in the Country, is generally, socio-economic under-development, coupled with some bad media tastes. Perhaps, media investment is a low priority for state actors and media consumption may not be a priority for the poorer segments of the population. Most media outlets therefore may not target news towards these segments of the population.”

The Press Union of Liberia President lauded all Liberia’s media development partners, particularly USAID Internews for the five-year media development project in Liberia; written by T.R. Dixon.

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