Accordingly, at the opening of the 6th and final session of the 53rd Legislature at the Capitol Building which was held January 9, House Speaker Nuquay said such budgetary assistance to the Press Union of Liberia will help to provide training and capacity building for members of the Fourth Estate, and will be implemented under the direction and supervision of the relevant agency of government.
Already, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) under the aegis of President Charles Coffey has welcomed the proposal by House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay for inclusion of the Liberian media in the 2017/2018 National Budget.
While lauding Speaker Nuquay for his proposal to include the Liberian media in the National Budget, Coffey said the inclusion of the Liberian media in the National Budget will help strengthen the media.
He also stressed that the proposed inclusion of the media in the National Budget should not be wrongly interpreted to mean that the media has been bought by government.
“Media organizations in many African countries, including Benin, Ghana, as well as many European countries had their headquarters built by their respective governments,” Coffey said, adding that the PUL has never and will never dictate to any media house in the country which headline or story to air on radio or publish, and wondered why anyone should entertain the notion that the media will be bought because government wants to support its growth and development.
“Look, the PUL was established since 1964; since that time it has not had its own headquarters; so including the Liberian media in the National Budget is an initiative that should be embraced by the public because it will help to enhance the construction of the PUL headquarters,” Coffey said.
While we agree that the media, especially ours in postwar Liberia, need all the support to exercise their functions and duties to inform and educate the public, we see this development of budgetary support as an attempt to hold a tight rein on the Fourth Estate, especially during these critical times when the country is about to elect the next round of governors.
During these critical times, it begs the question, why now? Why since 1964 it is now that government sees the need to include the media in budgetary allocation, and especially when one of government’s own has now become president of the Press Union of Liberia?
For us here, the best way out, if this government and its incoming successor mean well for the Liberian media, let them ensure that media institutions be strengthened by dint of their hard labor. Simply put, government must ensure that all spending entities expedite payments for advertorial arrears owed to the media.
Moreover, government spending entities must ensure that the granting of advertorials to the media must be on the basis of market reach and editorial performance and not on political biases.
Other than that, we will always be seen to be used and abused as pocketbook entrepreneurs, despite our lofty ideals of changing society.