The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) yesterday began a three-day forum with journalists in Gbarnga, Bong County, to discuss the role of the media in promoting government’s decentralization initiative through the establishment of County Service Centers.
The forum brought together 70 journalists from across the country, including publishers, community radio announcers, partners, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The government’s County Service Center program was initiated nine years ago, and is aimed at taking quality services closer to the people.
The media forum is meant to increase journalists’ understanding of the benefits of the County Service Centers and to form a strong partnership with the media as an integral part of government’s overall development agenda.
Several counties have already opened County Service Centers and the MIA and its partners are hoping the media will play an important part in promoting these service centers, which is vital to their overall success.
The service centers are expected to reduce or eliminate transportation hurdles for people who live in rural Liberia and frequently struggle to get to Monrovia to access services such as paying taxes, business registration, obtaining birth certificates, driver licenses, and other documents required for various purposes.
The County Service Support Program is divided into three stages, including strategies on administration, fiscal, and political decentralization, with emphasis on dedication and decentralization.
Deputy Internal Affairs Minister for Administration Varney Sirleaf, who addressed the forum yesterday, said the media is a strategic partner in ensuring an increase in knowledge sharing.
Minister Sirleaf said the media represents the channel through which information flows throughout the country.
In order to effectively work with the media, Minister Sirleaf suggested working with the Ministry of Information and community radio stations to advance a better understanding of the implementation of the decentralization policy.
“The objective of this training is to deepen the understanding of the media about the decentralization program,” Minister Sirleaf said. “Without you, the information about the decentralization program will not be achieved. The media needs to visit the county centers in order to report success stories.”
The President of the Press Union of Liberia, Kamara Abdulai Kamara, said “The Press Union of Liberia is proud to be a partner to the government’s development agenda. Participation of the media is key to this process.”
The decentralization of basic services, he said, “has become much easier for our people to get quality services across the country. The evolution of community radio stations across the country has also made the sharing of information easier and effective across communities.”
“We support decentralization at every level. We insist that the government should recognize the media as an important partner in its development drive. We are happy to be part of this effort, and we’ll continue to be part of efforts to build the capacity of the media.”
For his part, Chief of Party for the Carter Center, Pewee Flomoku said, “We are closely working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs so that we can get the participation of our traditional chiefs in this process. But this is a good initiative, and we hail the MIA for this forum.”
Daily Observer’s Publisher Kenneth Y. Best commended the MIA, especially for the involvement of community radio stations.
Mr. Best said community radio stations are very important to publicizing the service centers and as such they need to be part of every decision making concerning the decentralization effort.
“They are the voices of our people in these counties. I am glad that the MIA involved community radio stations in this process. We need to come up with a scheme that will provide steady funding to community radio stations,” he suggested.
Sekou Abdullai Kromah, who represented the president of the Association of Liberia Community Radio Stations, noted: The forum” will help community workers and journalists.”