The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles B. Coffey, Jr., addresses the ongoing International Colloquium on Private Media financing, in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast, putting Liberia on the international scene.
Below is the full text of the PUL President:
It is a great pleasure to be here with you. Let me start off by thanking organisers of this event, the international Colloquium for inviting me to speak before you. I also thank the Ivorian government for creating enabling environment and for the warm welcome.
It is also my privilege to be in the company of distinguished guests and participants from across the region to discuss such an important topic– financing private media.
First of all let me briefly talk about the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) that I am representing directly and Liberia indirectly.
The Press Union of Liberia is the umbrella organisation of all media institutions and individual journalists in Liberia.
It was established on 30th of September 1964 to advocate for press freedom, freedom of expression, journalists’ safety, human rights and democracy.
The PUL has four officers elected by membership for three years to steer the affairs of the Union.
The elected officials including the president, Vice President, Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General are elected to serve for three years and they are qualified for reelection for second term, in line with the Union’s constitution.
Since 1964 the PUL has been ensuring press freedom and freedom of expression Liberia.
The PUL has several auxiliaries including Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), Female Journalist Association (Feja) Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL) Broadcasters Association, Reporters Association (RA)and Association of Liberia Community Radio (ALICO).
There is proliferation of media institutions in Liberia, maybe, partly is a result of the repealed of some anti-speech law, including sedition, criminal melovolence, criminal libel against the president etc.
The current leadership of the PUL is exerting frantic effort to ensure the safety of journalists and professionalism.
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.
Now, back to the subject matter, financing private media or investing in the media will ensure financial inclusion and impact.
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.
I am optimistic that Public financing and technical assistance will help scores of media institutions build robust businesses, strong enough to hold governments to account, expose corruption and provide a platform for debate.
Economy of the Liberian Media:
Liberia has 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 organisations.
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.
A school of thought suggests that providing direct budgetary support to private media will compromise them, while another school of thoughts suggest that such process will empowered the media to ensure objectivity, fairness and good journalism.
I fully support public financial support to all media because the national budget is for every one and it is impossible for government to manipulate all the media or control the media wrongfully.
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.
Government is providing support to its public media such as the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) which normally receives sixty percent budgetary allocation from government while its management is responsible to find the forty percent.
LBS has television, radio and online media outlets.
Other public media institutions are Liberia News Agency (LINA) and New Liberia Newspaper.
But these public media institutions alone cannot address the communication and information needs of the Liberian people with different media taste.
Owing to the lack of public funding the private media are surviving on advertisements and special programs.
With the emergence of the new media, traditional method of genetating finances can not adequately solve the economic problem of the Liberian media.
There is a need for Africa governments to provide direct budgetary support for both private and public media.
The no money syndrome is forcing some private media institutions in self-censorship.
I must command other African countries whose governments are providing direct public funding to their media.
By empowering private and public media institutions will enable them cultivate economic opportunities thus ensuring a strong and inclusive growth of the media.
Let us continue to seek ways and means to empower the media.
The situation is becoming increasingly uncontrollable, most media owners are not adequately paying their staff with reporters being victims of the situation.
I am hoping that the Colloquium will determine the best course of action aimed at improving the economy of the media and prevailing on our respective governments and people to see media financing initiatives as top priority.
Because the media is the conduit through which they can express themselves. The media also keeps them abreast of happenings in the world.
Thanks for your undivided attention.