5 October 2012

Liberia: 'Journalists Must Earn Living' - Says Liberia Chambers of Commerce Boss

The president of the Liberian Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Monie R. Captan has said journalists were persons of dignity and at such, they needed to live with dignity and decency and above all, well paid.

He made the statement last week in Robert Sport Grand Cape Mount County when he served as key note speaker at the Press Union of Liberia 48th anniversary celebration.

Speaking on the Theme: SOCIAL DIALOGUE: SHAPING THE FUTURE OF JOURNALISM IN LIBERIA, Mr. Captain said the Media as watch dog for the society, it was important for to earn good living like any other person in a society.

In Liberia, the media is ill equipped and many journalists take home salaries can not even meet fifty percent of their domestic needs. More to that, the Government which is the main advertiser takes several months to settle their indebtedness to them. Not only Government, but also private institutions do not pay for advertisement upfront, rather rely on credit; a situation which affects the media.

With this, it becomes difficult for many media houses to continue doing business. Sadly, a page for a news paper is less than five hundred United States dollars unlike in other neighboring countries which similar rates are above One thousand United States dollars.

It is from this background that the politician turned businessman made these statements. He said, "A journalist, like any other person, must earn his/her living. So many of you work today without any clear benefits, sometimes without a firm commitment of wages; your income changes from one month to another and you have to hustle to make ends meet. You live a vulnerable life with little or no social protection, no security, no dignity, no hope, and yet we do not hesitate to praise you as the "watchdog of society".

Then he added this; "This is all so sad because you have been deprived of what it feels to experience the dignity in labor, to know that your productivity is justly appreciated and rewarded.

"The steps you are taking now will be the beginning of stepping out of poverty, out of insecurity, and out of hopelessness. However, your steps must be measured cautiously; you cannot bring change overnight, but you can start the process of change TODAY. Your engagement in social dialogue is a responsible and prudent way to start. It shows that you recognize the important and mutually supporting role that each social partner must play in society. It shows that you recognize the constraints and opportunities in the labor market and the Liberian economy and the need for dialogue. To a greater extent, it shows that you understand and care about your sector, the media."

The former Foreign Minister said, "The plight of journalists in Liberia as a part of the labor force has been for too long ignored and denigrated simply because we see a journalist as someone from civil society who is making a sacrifice for the country. BUT journalists leave their homes every day to go to work; they have families to support, rent to pay, desires for personal growth and development."

The plight of journalists in Liberia is grave and in many instances, some die of sickness which due to the lack of funds to seek advance treatment outside Liberia.

"Although you are on the labor side, you very well understand the plight of media institutions. Most media institutions in Liberia are not financially viable and sustainable. Too much demand may simply kill most of them. Just meeting the daily purchase of newsprint and the cost of printing is a daily struggle for many newspapers. Radio and television stations must struggle to buy fuel, repair their generators and equipment, which tend to constantly breakdown. It is a tough sector to survive in and the challenges are exacerbated by the low advertisement rates Liberians are used to paying," he continued.

Many newspaper houses do not own their own printing machines. They have to take the work for a different location for printing.To this end, the LV boss thinks that it was important at this time for the media to be managed as a business venture in order to help improve the industry.

"The media has to be managed as a business enterprise if goals of sustainability and growth are to be realized. Media owners must streamline their expenses and create more efficient operations. They must create new revenue streams through new and innovative products. Some media enterprises are already earning additional revenue through their websites. Advertisement rates in general must be set to more realistic levels. Today, advertisement rates in Liberia are very low and can hardly meet operational costs for most media enterprises," he continued.

He made this appeal to media owners: "There has to be a broad commitment to carry advertisement at approved rates that reflect a true value for services rendered. Media enterprises must stick to these rates and avoid situations were one or two enterprises will compromise the tariff structure to the detriment of the whole sector. On the other hand, media enterprises must strive for quality output. Let us move beyond the old saying that, "you get what you pay for." Let us insist on quality standards."

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