IREX Europe, as part of the Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa, is helping develop the Liberian media infrastructure, shattered by years of oppression and poverty. The Partnership is helping re-establish the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and to reform media legislation ahead of critical elections in October 2005.
IREX Europe Development Director Mike de Villiers traveled to Monrovia together with Partnership colleagues from UNESCO, the International Media Support (a Danish NGO), and Nigeria’s International Press Center to help the PUL establish a resource center for Liberian media, complete with modern computer equipment and a professional staff. The team also worked on another Partnership project: preparations for a comprehensive reform of Liberia’s media legislation.
De Villiers, a former BBC journalist who has trained journalists and helped establish media associations and training centers in the Balkans for IREX, presented to the PUL the strategies and statutes of recently established Macedonian associations. The Liberian journalists were eager to learn from the experiences of their South East European colleagues, keenly aware of the success stories of former Socialist countries that are now entering, or preparing to enter Europe. IREX’s strategic approach emphasizes developing media and civil society institutions that are formed as part of a collaborative process with the sector they represent, with clearly defined legal and managerial structures, including critical built in checks and balances.
Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is struggling to overcome a decade of vicious civil war that only ended in the summer of 2003. National elections are scheduled for October 2005, but the media is poorly equipped to cope with such a challenge. The legal infrastructure in particular is weak, and in places entirely absent. The Partnership is organizing a National Conference on Media Law and Policy Reform in Liberia (October 21-23 2004) to be opened by the head of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, Chairman Gyude Bryant. Draft legislation prepared by the Partnership will be presented at the conference. The aim is to have these drafts, after discussion and modification by working groups made up of the Transitional government, Liberian media and international representatives, passed into law in time for the national elections next year.
IREX is providing private funds to support the Partnership for Media and Conflict Prevention in West Africa, which includes the following institutions:
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Association of Journalists for Peace in Cote d’Ivoire
Open Society Institute
International Federation of Journalists
International Media Support
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Rights Agenda (Nigeria)
PANOS – West Africa
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia in Monrovia.
IREX Europe Development Director Mike DeVilliers (against window) discusses management structure at the Press Union of Liberia.