River Gee County Senator, Conmany B. Wesseh, has stressed the need for legislating the Liberia Media Council (LMC) that will regulate the activities of media institutions and workers in the country.
To realize this, Senator Wesseh, while at the launch of the Liberia Media Initiative over the weekend, committed himself to pushing for this legislation possible consideration by his colleagues to have a regulatory body that will have the power to monitor media institutions and practitioners.
The Press Union of Liberia exists here, but it plays only an advocacy role without much power to sanction or discipline journalists and institutions who breach ethics.
The occasion at which the River Gee outspoken Senator made the statement was the official launch of the Liberia Media Initiative, a program that is implemented by Internews in collaboration with Local Voices Liberia Media Network (LVL) and the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP).
Senator Wesseh told the gathering that the creation of the Liberia Media Commission should be one of the focuses of the new project because it will enable the Press Union of Liberia to take full ownership of the media in Liberia.
Wesseh said that the creation of the LMC has been around over the last five years, and he is hoping that the PUL and partners involved can ensure this happens during this legislative year.
About the media project launched by Internews, Samukai Konneh, Project Director of LMI-internews project, said it will enable journalists to combat fake news and get involved in fact checking.
According to Mr. Konneh, several activities are expected to be undertaken under this new project; which include citizen’s perception about fake news, hate speech, data protection, conflict-sensitive journalism trainings, fact-check and verification tools training, editors forum and FOI investigative journalism story grants.
Konneh said, “These different activities will be implemented by the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), and Local Voices Liberia (LVL) and other media institutions.”
He indicated that the project also seeks to combat hate speech and work with journalists to improve their knowledge of the FOI, because people believed to be professional journalists sometimes fall prey to hate messages and fake news.
The newly launched initiative of Internews Liberia will seek to promote freedom of expression through quality Journalism which includes capacity building of journalists to improve storytelling and strengthen capacities to identify and counter misinformation and disinformation campaigns, hate speech and rumors in traditional and social media.
The LMI is intended to advocate for the government to pass specific legislation addressing protection of data and privacy, and advocate for the media industry to pass regulations on personal data privacy (in journalists’ code of conduct etc, and promote freedom through the implementation of the FOI Act as well as production of stories focusing on government accountability.
The LMC, when established, will work in the areas of media development, access to information, transparency and accountability, Peacebuilding in Liberia, and fostering local development through the utilization of communication and information sources.
LMC will assist media and civil society with professional services in a wide range of areas, including research, training, outreach and mass communication.
Its mission is to improve media capacity towards strengthening democracy and sustaining peace though the utilizing of communication and information resources by working with local and international partners.
The Council goal is to secure peaceful and democratic Liberia in which there will exist an independent media, a culture of free expression and access to information.