Gov’t Out of Touch with Rural Dwellers

first_imgLiberians in rural parts of the country are not feeling the impact of national government, House Speaker, J. Alex Tyler, has disclosed.At a news conference Wednesday, December 4, in Monrovia, Speaker Tyler admitted that rural dwellers are yet to experience the workings of their government in the last eight years of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration.He maintained that it was disappointing to experience first-hand, “budgetary allotment to the counties are not being used wisely.”Speaker Tyler and his colleagues, who have just arrived from a nationwide consultation in the counties, indicated that rural Liberians are not experiencing a trickle-down effect of government revenue, thereby feeling completely disconnected from central government.“We saw for ourselves the challenges and difficulties faced by the people in the rural areas. It’s clear that budgetary allotments for the counties are not being properly managed and we need to take some steps in addressing that,” the Bomi County lawmaker asserted.While it’s true that the Legislature makes the appropriation and the Executive executes, cardinal amongst the three functions of lawmakers is ‘oversight’.Speaker Tyler, however, admitted that the Legislature had not been effective in their oversight responsibilities. “We need to step-up our oversight duty,” the House Speaker, who is an integral part of the ruling Unity Party, added.According to him, the nationwide trip afforded lawmakers the opportunity to understand the plights of ordinary Liberians in order to better address these issues in the near future. He announced that this situation allows the House of Representatives to be “robust in exercising our legislative function.”Interestingly, this is the Speaker’s second pronouncement of the House being ‘robust in performing her duties,’ but with few to see any results from the first branch of government.During the opening of the Legislature last sitting, Speaker Tyler announced for the first time; “The Legislature will be more robust in this sitting than ever.”It’s important to note that the House’s ‘robust action’ led to the controversial detention of two executive appointees, former Montserrado County Superintendent Grace Kpann, and Sinoe County Superintendent Milton Teahjay.“If that is being robust,” political commentators intoned, “then the House should have been robust on the passage of several bills including Decent Work, and the Code of Conduct draft legislations that are in the interest of the people, but have spent many years collecting dust in the corridors of the Capitol Building.”Relative to the nationwide Draft Oil Law Consultation, Speaker Tyler described the event as successful. He noted that the consultation reached 15 counties and is expected to be completed in Montserrado shortly.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Reforming Perilous Media Conditions Rests on Government

first_imgRenowned Liberian broadcast journalist, Aaron Kollie, has said that it is a must that the current perilous conditions under which the Liberian media operate must change; and it is up to the Liberian government to make that change.Serving as one of the three panelists at a two-day Media Law and Regulatory Reform Stakeholders’ Conference organized by the Press Union of Liberia and partners in Monrovia, Mr. Kollie said the free press, which government continuously boasts about, must not be measured on the basis of the proliferation of media houses and “free talk,” but on the formulation of laws and policies that safeguard that freedom in line with a constitutional foundation.He said the Liberia media reform initiative, which the PUL and partners are undertaking, is not just commendable, but an irreversible strategic action initiative to safeguard what he termed as “the sacred journalism profession.”Mr. Kollie told his colleagues and partners at the conference, “Our meeting here today is to look directly in the eyes of policymakers and insist that the direction has got to change.”President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered the conference keynote address, while Senate Committee Chair on Information and Broadcasting – Milton Teahjay – spoke briefly during the opening ceremony.Mr. Kollie noted, “Repeated public reference to tolerance and the receipt or ceremonial embrace of friend of media award are not sufficient accolades in the absence of tangible steps and laws to protect press freedom.”This was in reference to an assertion made by the President that her administration has made significant contributions to the respect and sustainability of the media, including the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act of 2010 – for which she was honored as “Friend of the Media” by the Africa Editors’ Forum.The Power TV CEO also said that the establishment of an Independent Broadcast Regulator in Liberia is not negotiable. “It is not just an integral part, but an indispensable facet of our current democratic dispensation that aligns directly with the precepts of free and open societies,” he said, adding, “This prolonged advocacy that has witnessed sustained and hectic interventions at the legislative level must be brought to fruition now.”He noted that the LTA, as structured, is not effectively positioned or qualified enough as a body to regulate such a specialized sector.“The LTA concentrates heavily on the telecommunications arena, has relegated the Liberian broadcast sector as a side-track, interested only in spectrum and annual registration fees. That has got to change,” he said.Moving in the direction of reform, he said the government must demonstrate good faith by embarking on the process of deregulation, wherein the Ministry of Information will henceforth cease to regulate and collect annual license or registration fees from media houses. He noted that the Independent Regulator should not be a government parastatal, adding: “It must be a quasigovernment administrative agency with no direct governmental control.”“Aside from budgetary allocation, the administrative cost for the upkeep of the regulator must come from diverse sources, including partners and stakeholders. This is intended to serve as an effective safeguard against any manipulation or undue political influence. “When it is structured as such, decisions taken by the body will be deemed credible and enforceable. In the event of dissatisfaction, the recourse to litigation comes into play,” he noted.LTA Chairperson Angelique Weeks said the need for freedom of speech and the outreach of broadcast media highlights the progress achieved over the decades for media independence from government control and censorship.However, she said, “Media freedom and free speech should not be free to the extent that it is irresponsible and not independently regulated,” adding that “where free speech is not held accountable under the law, broadcast content tends to be skewed because business interests take precedence over professional journalism and the public’s interest.”The broadcast sector, like all sectors, flourishes best in countries where the rule of law is respected, she said.Journalist Kollie is the CEO of Power TV. The conference was held under the theme: “The Liberian Media and The Law.”Other panelists were Minister of Information, Eugene Nagbe; Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) Chairperson, Angelique Weeks; and UL Vice President for Administration, Weade Kobbah Wureh, who served as the moderator for the panel discussion.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more