Role of the Media in Building Liberia's Economy, Statement by K Abdullai Kamara, President/Press Union of Liberia

Statement by K Abdullai Kamara, President/Press Union of Liberia,
Training Workshop for Journalists Working for CELLCOM's Partner Media.
January 10, 2014


Colleagues of the Media
Representatives of CELLCOM
Ladies & Gentlemen

It is a pleasure to be here this morning. The Press Union of Liberia is interested in any and all activities that are aimed at improving the capacity of the media, whether in terms of training reporters to perform better, training business staff to better access finance or even to improve the general space for the media to operate. This effort by CELLCOM is a truly welcoming development.

It is no gainsaying that the media heralds activities in any community. Regardless of the nature or trend of any issue, there must be some media involvement to get the people following through. The extent to which media propagate particular issues is the determinant of the success.

Following this to the larger Liberian economy, there have been much statements and reports about the growth of the Liberian economy. There are also lots of reports about limited opportunities for the ordinary Liberian, despite this claim of growth. This is an issue of concern, and the public at large looks forward to the media gathering more information to enlighten them.

But the media is itself a segment of the Liberian economy, and must be seen growing to show the extent of the growth that we are all concerned about discussing. To date, the media is developing through the use of advance technology, and there are signs that some growth and improvements are taking place. However, on the overall, the media remains challenged.

  • There are lots of reports about media indiscretion and infractions. We have an effective Media Complaints Committee, gradually being transformed into a full scale self regulatory mechanism that has been effective in naming and shaming deviants;
  • Media laws are not the ones you want to call home about. We are happy though that the government keeps making pledges to ensure that the laws will be changed this year; and
  • The men and women who report the news are not well paid. This might have a background in the fact that advert dollars are limited. This can be corrected by these kinds of engagements.

I am informed that CELLCOM has one of the most expansive partnerships with media organizations, both in the Monrovia area, as well as across the country with the rural community based radio stations. Absolutely, there are some benefits to those stations, as CELLCOM provides electricity for their upkeep, and a basic form of income for the adverts.

The question however is – are the discussions surrounding these agreements held on an even table? Is there a proper discussion on the terms of these agreements, where there are gives and takes? This process makes it more successful and beneficial for all.

I am also aware that CELLCOM has maintained some sort of partnership with the Press Union of Liberia. We want this to continue, but we strongly believe that it should be discussed on the platform of mutual respect and evenhandedness. This is a practice that must be represented in all other business deals between media houses and other businesses.

By all means, the media relies upon adverts to run their business, and the business houses on the other hand need to advertise their products - of course, working with media. CELLCOM has just admitted that the media had an important role in helping it to gain more than one million customers. We all must accept this mutuality as the basis of making Liberia better.

Actors in the Liberian economy want the confidence that issues about their successes, opportunities and misfortunes will be addressed appropriately. The media presents the platform to discuss these circumstances, so the media must be taken for what it really is. If the media cannot freely discuss corruption, tax fraud, and other practices that affect the growth and sustainability of the Liberian economy as a whole, the media will not be in the position to report things that affect any commercial enterprise.

So, we are all in this fight for rights. Government organizations and business houses giving out adverts should not tie this business to the perceived leaning of the media, but should rather consider the audience and reach of the media. The media is generally not a party to the conflicts or politics in Liberia, their role is to present information and news to the community. We insist and will work with them to make this role professional. It is through this that the media will contribute to the growth of the Liberian economy.

Thank you.

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