Editorial Comment from the Liberian Observer……
Let Community Radio Stations Operate Freely
Created Nov 17 2009 – 1:50am
Running a community radio station in remote parts of this country is not an easy undertaking. For this reason, those who carry out the work of keeping the people abreast with current events in their communities deserve a lot of credit for their magnificent efforts. They should not even allow fire to stop them.
A recent report from River Gee County’s provisional capital of Fish Town that politicians were bent on meddling in the affairs of a community radio station there is not only regrettable but also unwelcome and disappointing. At a time when many Liberians have gained some consciousness about their rights in the society, it is high time certain people disengage themselves from misinformation. We join a female advocate in the county in urging the staff of the station to apply professional ethics and shun all attempts by individuals to meddle in the operations of the station.
Instead of trying to obstruct smooth operations at the station, local politicians of River Gee County should facilitate and support the independence of the radio station. The impediments to running private radio stations in Liberia are many. The economic environment is not favorable. We do not have a large commercial base to support a strong radio station, especially in rural areas. The advertising income is very low for a radio station to meet all its requirements, pay reasonable salaries and other expenses to keep the radio station going. One has to engage in calculus every day to meet the financial requirements of the moment. That is not easy. What is sad is that some of those in authority do not see this or simply do not care.
Community dwellers should be helping to make the environment more conducive for the running of radio stations rather than creating conditions that undermine the operations of such stations. It requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice of personal resources to run a radio station. The balance sheet of community radio stations is nothing to write home about. Even when some semblance of profit surfaces, it quickly disappears because it is ploughed back into meeting a chain of pending issues and challenges.
We know that media institutions in the past had encountered a myriad of legal impediments from past governments. That’s why any hint of interference or threat from a government official causes so much panic at media houses even now.
It must be made clear that people who run media houses are not cowards. It is only because authorities have arrogated unto themselves so much power that they feel they can cow the media into submission. They do this with the sole purpose of boosting their political stakes.
The River Gee community radio broadcasters are determined to operate in an atmosphere of freedom if a conducive environment is created. The citizens there owe a debt of gratitude to the broadcasters for the effort they are making to maintain the station. And that debt can be repaid not with cash but by ensuring that a conducive environment is put in place for the efficient, effective and orderly operations of the station. Like UNMIL and the International Alert, the local authority needs to milk the station with resources and not just remotely control it as they are doing. This is because they and the citizens are the beneficiaries and not the journalists alone.
We think that what the community radio broadcasters are doing is of great importance for the future of a country filled with people who are poor, hungry, traumatized and suffering.
It would actually be a relief if local authorities would subsidize a station that is rendering a public service, to which the politicians should make a contribution. It is therefore their collective duty to push the government to ensure that the station operates with objectivity and fairness and not try to impose more repressive, media-unfriendly policies.
Copyright 2009 Liberian Observer Online