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FREE MEDIA TO REPORT RESPONSIBLY ON OIL AND GAS

maritimeAmidst debate over press freedom in Liberia; United States Ambassador Deborah Malac says Liberia has extremely free media environment.

The US Ambassador told a gathering of journalists in Monrovia that there are a lot of controversies regarding  press freedom, but Liberia enjoys a free media environment compared to most places she’s visited in the world.

Ambassador Malac said “in Liberia people can say, do, or publish anything they want”.
Ambassador reminded the 7 journalists that extremely important roles to play in promoting good governance and responsible resource management in the oil sector.

She said thorough and thoughtful media coverage of the extractive industries raise public awareness and facilitates constructive discussion about the desire path forward.

Ambassador Malac said revenue from the oil, gas and mining  sectors are notoriously difficult for governments to manage and as such building the capacity of journalists to effectively report on the sector brings about transparency and accountability.

Lack of transparency leads to what she calls “undesirable macroeconomic impacts and corruption thereby making it difficult for the  population to hold their governments accountable”.

Public resources she furthered should provide public benefits Liberia according to her has an opportunity to ensure that the natural resource revenues are managed for the benefit of its people but can only be achieved by effective and accurate reporting.

She spoke when she served as keynote speaker at the official opening of a week long training of  seven Liberian journalists on how to report on Liberia’s oil, gas and mining sectors  in Monrovia.

But, contrary to Ambassador Malac’s commendation that Liberia has one of the free press environment around the world; it can be recall two months ago the managing editor of Front Page Africa Rodney Sieh was put behind bars for  using a report from the General Auditing commission  that indicted former Agriculture Minister Dr. Christ Toe for his alleged failure to account for money given him to fight the carter pillars invasion in Bong County.

The Former Agriculture Minister filed a law suit against Mr. Sieh of which the court ruled in favor of the former Agriculture Minister requesting Mr. Rodney Sieh to pay  pointfor what it calls “damaging of character”.

Also in 2010 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,  filed a law suit against the New Broom Newspaper.

According to a writ of summon issued by the Civil Law Court, the President filed for Action for “Damages in line with the publication of the paper  September 3, 2009 edition alleging that she took US$2 million dollars bribe to award a contract to a concession company in southeastern Liberia.

The paper reported that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and three other lawmakers of Maryland County allegedly took bribes from the management of SIFCA for the government to award the concession contract without using the rightful procedural at the disadvantage of the citizens of Maryland County who are serving as host to the rubber plantation, an allegation, the president since denied and some member of her executive branch of government denied.

Currently, the New Broom Newspaper is closed down due to their inability to pay the fine of 5 million United States dollars.

Since the imprisonment of Mr. Sieh some members of the executive  branch of government particularly the information Minister Lewis Brown and some of his deputies  have been somersaulting over the credibility of the GAC reports.

In one instance Minister Brown questioned the credibility of the GAC reports  saying it is not one that should be used to indict people of corruption

In less than a week after his comment the information Minister changed his words saying “the GAC Report are useful tool to fight corruption” something many saw as a contradictions.

Since the imprisonment of Rodney Sieh Liberian Journalists in their small group meetingsare left in doubt of quoting documents that come from the government of Liberia.

Contrary to the US Ambassador statement the president of the Press Union of Liberia, Mr. Peter Quaqua, thinks otherwise of the US ambassador’s comment rating Liberia as one of the freest media environment in the world.

According to the PUL President said it is unfortunate that amidst chilling experiences, the US Ambassador would give such statement that is contrary to the realities in the media environment.
“if this is true, we would be interested in knowing which report the Ambassador is reading? We would like to know because accounts available from noted organizations specialized in monitoring the media around the world contradict the Ambassador.

Peter Quaqua furthered that for several years Liberia’s Press freedom record has consistently remained at “partly free” according to the Freedom House and other institutions.

Mr. Quaqua who did not renege on his position of the Ambassador’s comment asserted that “appears to be part of the bigger ploy to hid the true story about the problems of the  Liberian people”.

Source: Evelyn Kpadeh/ Liberia Women Democracy Radio

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Reporting Oil and Gas project was launched on 4th June 2009atTakoradi, Western Region, Ghana by Penplusbytes (PPB – www.penplusbytes.org) with the vision of providing a one stop online information and knowledge about Ghana’s oil and gas sector
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