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UNESCO ANTENNA OFFICE, MONROVIA

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Mano River States Upbeat Throughout Week-Long Celebration of World Press Freedom Day in Monrovia


Media Professionals from Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire join their Liberian counterparts to celebrate gains and demand full freedom of the press in a week-long celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

Monrovia, Liberia, May 04, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Hundreds of media professionals marched in Monrovia to mark the World Press Freedom Day, May 3. The rally and parade, which began from the headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), ended at the University of Liberia where a debate on freedom of information took place between students of Mass Communications from the University of Liberia and Stella Maris Polytechnic, according to Peter Quaqua, PUL President.

The parade and debate were preceded, May 2, by a Mano River Union regional conference where discussions were held on the status of media freedom in the Mano River Union States under the global theme: News Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform societies. The conference addressed topics as varied as Journalism, Peace and Democracy: How to use media freedom to improve the democratic development of a country; and the Role of the Media in Transitional Environments and Fostering of Accountability.

At the conference, reporters enthusiastically applauded when Liberia’s Information Minister, Lewis Brown, announced that the government would soon appoint a commissioner to oversee implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), adopted since 2010. “In addition to the appointment of the FOI commissioner, the Liberia government will sign the Table Martin Declaration, a law that decriminalizes media infractions,” stated Brown. Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was a recipient of last year’s "Friend of the Media" award from the African Editors Forum, the first for a sitting president.

Conference participants also welcomed remarks by a spokesperson for the Sierra Leone Minister of Information, A. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo. The Sierra Leonean official, E. Kwame Yankson, announced that adoption of the 2012 bill on the Right to Access Information is on track for passage next week by his country’s Legislature.

Speakers and panelists from UNMIL, UNESCO, the European Union, the Center for Media Studies and Peace-building (CEMESP) and the three Mano River States, in attendance, addressed media ethics and laws, the importance of media professionals’ responsibilities, peace journalism, the role of women in the media, and the transition from traditional to new media. In addition to the Liberia Broadcasting System, (LBS), a sponsor of the event, various journalists from media outlets large and small, including community radio stations across the country, outlined the need for continued pressure on their government to further legislate on media laws. In Liberia, two pending bills, one to establish the national broadcaster and the other on community radio laws, are yet to be approved by the Senate.

The World Press Freedom festivities in Monrovia are sponsored by UNESCO, DANIDA and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), through their Knight International Journalism Fellow, Luisa Handem Piette, in collaboration with IREX, the Press Union of Liberia, the UN Peace Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and other partners and sponsors, including Sting Communications, Coca-Cola and Cellcom. The events culminate with a PUL media awards ceremony on Friday, 4 May 2012, at Corina Hotel in Monrovia.

The festivities were made possible through a grant from DANIDA to UNESCO in connection with the strengthening freedom of information in the Mano River States project. This Pilot project has made great achievements, thus far. Not only has the Freedom of Information Law been enacted in Liberia, there has also been mobilisation of stakeholders on mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation. An important component of the project is the media sustainability training as well as the Media Business and Sustainability (MBS) Exchange program, which is held monthly in Monrovia for media managers and business leaders.

The Mano River Union includes Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. These countries have undergone tremendous changes in the past decade, some of which have resulted in bloody conflicts that have caused not only displacement of populations, but also the death and mutilation of hundreds of thousands of people. These countries are now grappling to ensure stability within the framework of democratic governance.

Tilly Reed, Chief of Party for Liberia’s office of the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a co-sponsor of the event, says funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for their Civil Society and Media Leadership Program (CSML), has made their contribution to the festivities possible.

About

PUL The Press Union of Liberia is the umbrella organization serving Liberian media professionals and institutions since 1964. With a membership base of more than 500 journalists, the PUL has oversight responsibility for addressing problems arising from journalists’ reportage and conduct in the face of the ever growing demand for quality and good taste.

About IREX
IREX is an international nonprofit organization providing leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. IREX enables local individuals and institutions to build key elements of a vibrant society: quality education, independent media, and strong communities. IREX is implementing the five year Civil Society and Media Leadership Program (CSML), which is aimed at sustaining peace in Liberia.

About UNESCO
UNESCO works to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values. It is through this dialogue that the world can achieve global visions of sustainable development encompassing observance of human rights, mutual respect and the alleviation of poverty, all of which are at the heart of UNESCO’S mission and activities.

About ICFJ
The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. For 27 years, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 65,000 journalists from 180 countries. ICFJ offers hands-on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to journalists and media managers around the globe. For more information, visit www.icfj.org ; http://www.icfj.org

Contact:
- Peter Quaqua, Ph: (+231)06529611 pquaqua@yahoo.com
- Luisa Handem Piette (ICFJ/UNESCO) Ph: +231-880788916 l.handem-piette@unesco.org
- Bill Burke (IREX) Ph: +231-880557852 bburke@irex.org
Contact Information
UNESCO ANTENNA OFFICE, MONROVIA
Luisa Handem Piette
+231-880788916
Contact
unesco.org
bburk@irex.org or pqua31@yahoo.com

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