Rising Tomorrow: Celebrating Liberia’s Media on World Press Freedom Day!

By: George Sarwah Stewart, A Journalist & Development Worker |

Amidst formidable challenges, the independent press in Liberia persists, navigating a challenging business climate to ensure its survival. Despite these hurdles, the Liberian media landscape remains vibrant, with over three dozen radio stations, more than ten local dailies, and numerous online television platforms. It’s worth noting that the operating costs often fall below the basic incomes of these institutions. Yet, despite these financial constraints, the media continue to uphold Liberia’s democratic credentials.

As the world commemorates the 30th World Press Freedom Day, established by a United Nations General Assembly Resolution in 1993, the Liberian media takes pride in its significant contribution to the country’s highly contested 2023 Presidential Elections. While there have been reservations about the media’s role in the elections, overall, the elections were conducted peacefully, fairly, and transparently, marking a success story for Liberia.

Acknowledging some of the challenges faced by the media during the elections, the USAID-funded Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) – International Election Observer Mission (EISA-IEOM) noted that the Liberian media predominantly covered the elections in news broadcasts, with few exceptions such as ECOWAS Radio, which dedicated standalone programs to election coverage. Notably, Frank Sainworla’s “2024 Elections Update,” a weekly 30-minute radio magazine program dedicated to elections, was broadcast on multiple radio stations, including several community stations in rural Liberia. However, the EISA-IEOM also highlighted concerns about journalists’ relationships with politicians, which could compromise impartiality in reporting. This issue requires thorough scrutiny and collective action.

The current state of the Liberian media underscores its vulnerability in upholding ethical values and integrity. Addressing this challenge requires innovative business models and institutional capacity building to transform media outlets into trusted partners for businesses and to gain clients’ confidence. Investment in media business and institutional management capacity, as well as partnerships with successful media companies in the West African sub-region, are crucial steps towards sustainable media development in Liberia.  Salaries grades a low as twenty United States Dollars or no salaries at all undermine managerial control.

As we mark the 2024 World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the theme “A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis” resonates deeply, particularly in the context of Liberia experiencing the harsh impacts of global warming, with daily temperatures reaching around 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Let our journalism be diversified and fulfill the Social Responsibility Theory we uphold in public service. Happy World Press Freedom Day, my First Love, Journalism!

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