Thursday, June 26, 2008

Liberia Media Center Releases 2nd Media Monitoring Report

After nearly three months, the Liberia Media Center today released its second media monitoring report on the coverage of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process and the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

The exercise, follow up on the center’s previous monitoring of the TRC coverage by the local media is meant to technical and editorial advice to the country’s media for the improvement of news content and programs being delivered to the general population.

According to an LMC release, the monitoring also seeks to build a culture of professional accountability amongst media houses. The center noted that the Liberian media has generally shown strong interest in the coverage of the TRC and the Charles Taylor trial, in spite resource and editorial constraints.

The release extolled the outstanding works done by the Daily Observer, New Democrat, Star Radio and Radio Veritas for their coverage of both processes, though overall the broadcast media provided more coverage than the print. The LMC also flagged The Analyst Newspaper’s persistency in notably keeping a number of issues, especially the appearance of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf before the TRC on the front burner.

All media institutions combined produced far better quality stories than the previous review. But the report berated the National Chronicle for what it called its troubling pattern of reporting. It strongly admonished the paper clearly delineate its news articles from its opinions.

The study stated that coverage of the TRC process declined since the issuance of the first monitoring report. This, the report noted is in part due to lack of access by reporters, and the movement of the hearings further away from the capital city Monrovia.

According to the report, the print media published a total of 182 articles dropping from a monthly average of 95.5 in the preceding period to 60.6 articles. While the broadcast media aired 126 articles which accounted for a 1.93% reduction on the previous monthly average of 65.5 to 42.0 news stories.

The monitoring found that coverage of the Charles Taylor trial is almost evenly divided between the print and broadcast outlets, though the broadcast sector relied rather heavily on Talking Drum Studio and the BBC World Service Trust syndicated reports from the trial taking The Netherlands.

In a related development the LMC has recommended that the TRC should to reconsider its approach to issues regarding media. The center said the commission’s media unit is acutely under-resourced and requires concrete support to carry out its functions and that support for local media coverage of the process should be provided if and when necessary.

The center also noted that a mechanism needs to be instituted for providing print media houses access to resources on the Charles Taylor trial. It says institutions like the ICTJ, LMC, BBCWST and TDS should explore the possibility of forging partnership as well as other creative ways to narrow the information gap, especially within the print media.

The LMC is expected to release its final report on its media monitoring project in the coming months.

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