Monday — A project to strengthen, protect and empower media institutions and journalists will commence in Liberia with financial support from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).
Dubbed: "Strengthening Independent Media & Freedom of Information of Liberia", the two-year (2021-2023) intervention will be implemented by VOSIEDA in partnership with the Press Union of Liberia and the Department of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Liberia.
Among other things, the project aims to construct approach mechanisms that will prevent crimes and violence against Liberian journalists, provide trainings in legal know-how, and create awareness of legislations promoting free speech and of the press, including access to information.
VOSIEDA will partner with two media stakeholders - the Press Union of Liberia and the Communication and Media Studies Department of UL to sensitize and train journalists about personal safety, self-regulation, legal approach, and highlight crimes and constant violence media practitioners across Liberia continue to experience. The project also seeks to harness citizens' demand for public information and promote accountability.
Despite legislation (FOIA, KAKA, and Article 15 of the Constitution) promoting free speech, freedom of the press and access to information, enjoying these rights are almost impossible due to hostilities of previous and current governments in Liberia. The flagrant violation of these laws by politicians and state-actors; the culture of impunity; and political biases continue to create harsh environment for journalists and free press. These realities underpin the reason behind the project.
In the end, the project hopes to strengthen independent media and freedom of information in Liberia; improve the environment for press freedom, journalistic safety, and self-regulation through favorable policies and practices; ensure enhanced journalists' and CSO's awareness and networking; and foster active citizen demand for transparency of the media and of government activities while bolstering CSOs, media, and government collaborations in accessing and using public data.
Under the project, the PUL will, among other things, investigate and analyze 20 cases of violence against journalists across Liberia, evaluate cases of violence, and summarize causes, impact and lessons learned, publish and distribute personal safety measures, identify and recruit 250 journalists for trainings with 70% of participants being females, and establish a national journalists peer support network.
For its part, the Department of Communication and Media Studies of UL will develop training manual on legal know-how, personal safety, and security, train beneficiaries or journalists in legal know-how, person safety, and security to ensure safety when reporting from dangerous zones, and train 250 freelance and rural journalists in legal provisions of article 15 of Liberian constitution.
As part of awareness activities, a 'Special Edition of the Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum' was held on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 at the iCampus on Carey Street where panelists (SPOON Communication Manager, Tetee Kanneh; Media Law Specialist, Attorney-at-Law Alphonsus Zeon; and a representative of the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative) highlighted challenges confronting the Liberian media.
Formal launch of the project will take place in the auditorium of the University of Liberia's Capitol Hill campus on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
President George M. Weah is expected to deliver the keynote address while serving as Chief-launcher. Media stakeholders, foreign embassies, civil society, key leaders of the University of Liberia led by Dr. J. Sarwolo Nelson, Jr. are among those expected to grace the launch.
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