MONROVIA – The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding and its partners organized a Freedom of Information (FOI) roundtable on Monday, May 31, 2021 with journalists and government information officials in Monrovia.
This is the first of three Freedom of Information Relationship Building (FOI) regional roundtables with twenty-five (25) Freedom of Information Story Grant fellows and approximately 25 public information officers and county.
The roundtable organized under the theme “Building a network to increase demand for the use of freedom of information” was mainly organized to encourage relationship building between public information officers and journalists in order to overcome the bottlenecks in access to public information.
This event (FOI roundtable) is part of an ongoing Liberia Media Initiative (LMI) project jointly implemented by CEMESP, Internews, Local Voices Liberia and co-funded by the European Union.
CEMESP Executive Director Malcolm Joseph said the roundtable was a way to introduce FOI fellows to county and public information officers with the aim of initiating relationship building and improving networks.
According to him, his institution will work with the Independent Information Commission (IIC) as part of the EU support project to organize two additional round tables on freedom of information to improve the quality of Liberian journalism.
The keynote speaker who is the commissioner of the Independent Information Commission spoke of the need to work with all sectors of society to achieve the commission’s mandate.
Cllr Bedal Wla Freeman said the IIC is functionally weak due to poor funding and lack of political will to comply with requests for information from some officials and public entities.
He asked for help from donors and other partners to bridge the huge capacity gap in his commission.
The European Union Ambassador to Liberia who attended the event said he was happy to be part of such an event supported by European nations.
Ambassador Laurent Delahousse reminded journalists of their duty to beware of lies and to seek out the facts to make news content.
Said Amb Delahousse: “Your role is so important in today’s world where people all have cell phones, radio access, some have access to television and print media…. “
He said there is so much information that journalists need tutors to separate the news from the real, the fake and the manipulated.
The EU ambassador added that it was necessary to put down the government but that all had to do it with facts, noting that the level of use of the Liberian freedom of information law was “unacceptable”, urging the Independent Information Commission to act.
For his part, Internews Liberia’s project director, Samukai Konneh, explained that the roundtable with PIOs, CIOs and journalists aimed to achieve the key outcome of harnessing existing knowledge to create mutually enriching networks that will increase the demand for and use of the Liberian Freedom of Information Act to build confidence. in governance and encourage citizen participation.
“Three years ago, in a previous project, Internews trained more than 25 Liberian journalists in the use of the FOI law for effective and responsible reporting – against the backdrop of an IIC report that the media were the least users of the FOI law. Isn’t that strange? How can the media not use the FOI law, ”Samukai asked.
He said it is important to discuss the bottlenecks imposed by the FOI law on itself; “And we will build relationships and networks that will begin to challenge these inherent bottlenecks in facilitating access to public information.”
Monday’s event, held at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia, also brought together the President of the Association of West African Journalists, Peter Quaqua Ms. Facia Harris, the Director of Outreach and outreach to the Independent Information Commission (IIC) and the IIC Executive Director. Emmanuel Howe.
There were presentations on the FOI Law Review Mechanism moderated by Media Development Specialist Ms. Maureen Sieh.
As part of the ongoing Liberia Media Initiative project, CEMESP will host two more roundtables with its 25 FOI fellows and government information officers outside of Monrovia.