A two-day training Workshop aimed at equipping journalists with skills and knowledge and to enhance their reporting on Free Movement and Migration (FMM) of citizens of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ended on Friday, February 14, with a call on journalists to report accurately and fairly on issues and to serve as ambassador.
Mr. George Suomie, the Director of Training at the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), who made the call during his presentation, said the training sought to enhance the capacities of media practitioners to conduct investigations, especially focusing on migration.
"The media plays a major role in the society and you have to work along with national security to ensure that people understand the protocols and respect free movement and migration of ECOWAS citizens residing in Liberia," Suomie noted, adding, "Our government signed and ratified the protocol and we ourselves have to respect and abide by everything that is contained in it."
The training workshop, under the theme; 'Sensitization for media practitioners on Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and its Supplementary Protocols on Residence and Establishments,' is jointly funded by the ECOWAS Commission and the European Union and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and National Coalition of Civil Society Organizations of Liberia (NACCSOL).
It was held at the YMCA's conference room on Broad Street, in Monrovia.
Participants were taken through practical topics such as - basic principles (civil, economic and social rights), as well as introduction to travel documents and ECOWAS common approach to migration.
In May 1979, ECOWAS member States adopted their first protocol relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Residence and Establishment.
It stipulated the right of ECOWAS citizens to enter, reside and establish economic activities in the territory of other member states and offers a three step roadmap of five years each to achieve freedom of movement of persons after fifteen years.
The first phase regards the right of visa-free entry, phase two dealt with the right of residency, and phase three concerns the right of establishment in another member State. The first phase has been fully implemented. The second phase, the right of residency, has also been implemented, given that citizens had obtained an ECOWAS residence card or permit in fellow member State. The third phase, the right of establishment, is still under implementation in most member States.
To facilitate the free movement of people in the ECOWAS region, member States established a common passport, formally known as the ECOWAS travel certificate. The ECOWAS passport was introduced in December 2000 to exempt holders from intra-regional visa requirements and to function as an international travel document. The member States are currently in the process of implementing a joint visa for non-ECOWAS citizens that cover the whole region, the Eco-Visa.
ECOWAS has also implemented measures to ease the movement of persons transported in private and commercial vehicles by harmonizing policies that enable vehicles to enter and temporarily reside in a member State for up to ninety and fifteen days, respectively. Most ECOWAS member States have, in this regard, instituted the ECOWAS brown card, which is an insurance of motor vehicles that covers the civil responsibly of the owner in the ECOWAS region.