The Liberian media is often characterized by the lack of trained manpower, ethical digression and transgression, poverty and female under-representation. Against this background, a workshop on support for the independent media in Liberia’s new democracy has just concluded here in Washington. It was sponsored by the Center for International Media Assistance and the National Endowment for Democracy.
Among those attending the workshop from Liberia was Philip Sandi, secretary general of the Press Union of Liberia.He told VOA the Liberian media needs training and economic empowerment.
“The essence of the workshop was really to try to create the environment for support to the independent media in Liberia. For instance, the issue of money and the profession is something that was really highlighted that if we have to see good journalism in Liberia then people should be ready to pump money into the system, and much of that money has to go to media development, training and putting into place strategies that will help media practitioners to be able to bring out business plans to bring money into the media,” he said.
During a capacity building workshop last October in Monrovia, participants identified ethical digression and transgression as some of the problems afflicting the Liberian journalism profession, including some journalists expecting money or favors in return for covering news events.
Sandi said the problem of ethical violation is an outgrowth of lack of training and a result of economic reality in Liberia.
“Even though a lot of people will say okay money can’t bring about professionalism, but the problem we have here is that most of the journalists in Monrovia, especially most of the media entities are not paying, and because our journalists are not paid, what normally people focused on is to survive, and when people are practicing journalism to survive obviously you would expect they would go after stories to survive,” Sandi said.
Sandi also said the Liberian delegation told the workshop that another plan is to begin to look at media institutions in Liberia as business entities whereby media managers would be required to draw up business plans to make them financially solvent thereby being able to pay their journalists.
He said it would not be practical, as some have suggested, setting up a media commission that would reassess training, emphasizing the professional competence of Liberian journalists.
“When you look at Liberia, you have to look at it from the global perspective. We have records of people who did not go to real journalism schools but they have proven to be some of the greatest journalists of our time. It’s a whole system that we have to put in place, and training is just one of it,” he said.
Females are underrepresented in the journalism profession in Liberia, and Sandi said part of the proposal the Press Union of Liberia will be presenting to international donors would include how to empower female Liberian journalists.
“It was even surprising to our audience to note that out of the 17 radio stations that we have in Monrovia, you have only one – Radio VERITAS – that has a female manager. And to best of my knowledge, we don’t have any female editor within the print sector. And that is going to be part of the media assistance strategy document that we are going to come up with. It will have a lot of things in the package for women, especially those that want to study journalism. We will be providing scholarship at the university level; we will be providing scholarships at the certificate level. We’ll be providing an environment where female journalists are going to be having exchange programs. And when we do that it would serve as an environment that would encourage more female media practitioners to enter the profession,” Sandi said.