The Ugandan Experience: A Challenge to Liberian
By: Augustus B. Fallah
For instance, the attitude of war could be transformed to development, tribal hatred to love and other activities that befit the culture and norms of modern society.
Additionally, if a society or community is to develop, the press should serve as a guide (watch-dog) for that modern society. One will agree that in the service of national and international development, the media plays an important role for that change.
It is quite clear that the United Nations Conference on the freedom of Information organized in 1948 was of no mistake. The aim of this conference was to develop a network of trained professionals that would carry on the dissemination of all kinds of information that would enable people of the world to make sound decisions for their daily survival.
In light of the foregoing, on 1 April 2005, a team of Liberian media executives (editors and publishers) from six independent newspapers, namely The INQUIRER, FORUM, Independent, Analyst, The NEWS and The New National were guest of the Ugandan media. The trip “study tour” organized by the World Association of newspapers (WAN), and International Media Support was aimed at giving the Liberian journalists an insight of how the Ugandan press grew from the ashes of war to its present status and how Liberian press can move and lead the nation through her reportage if Liberia is to take her place in a modern society.
Unlike Uganda the press in Liberia after the war is still crowing on is kneels, the Liberian press is suffering from laws that seem to impede her (press) chances to change the minds of the people from corruption, hatred in all forms and manners, and bring about the new concept that would be accepted in order to move the country forward.
In the performance of the press, there are some hurdles, for instance, there is no independent printing press, press freedom is slowly taking place, while the survival of newspapers advertisements, which serves a lifeblood of the papers is not forth coming due to selective attitudes by advertisers.
Another glaring factor is the lack of unity among the newspapers editors and publishers to champion their cause in one accord.
Following the war in 1986, according to information gathered, the Uganda press grew as huge as about 30 newspapers as it is now in Liberia with over 35 newspapers on the newsstand. The belief was that journalists as “watch-dogs” would lead or serve as guide since the entire country was destroyed and there was a need to reconstruct the country and reconcile the people – thus these outlets would serve as a medium of societal change.
In his words, the New Vision newspaper Editor, Managing Director William Pike, told the Liberian media delegation “it’s you the press that will serve as light to your broken society and not the politicians or the international community. And that can be done through your professional role in your reportages; it won’t be easy, but you can make it… and its your duties to transform your country. “What you see here today, Uganda was like Liberia 15 to 20 years ago, but it is the media that is transforming Uganda. Corrupt officials and white color criminals may see you as enemy, but strive for professionalism, credibility, and accuracy in the performance of your work and let mama Liberia be your objective,” Mr. Pike further noted.
The New Vision is Uganda’s leading newspaper and is a government owned paper which has taken an independent posture and serves as a true vanguard of change in Uganda. It produces over 35,000. to 40,000 copies a day with a readership of about 15000 people.
There are presently six newspapers in Uganda including the New Vision, The Independent Monitor which has the capacity similar to that of the New Vision in production is one of the leading papers. Others are the Red Pepper, The Weekly Observer, The Sunday Vision and others who crusade the free information market of Uganda.
Like the New Vision, The Monitor started in 1994. Organized by a group of journalists, the paper started as a weekly, then bi-weekly and is today one of the Uganda’s leading papers, next to the New Vision.
“Like many independent papers in developing countries especially Africa, the Monitor has its experience in the discharge of her professional duty like many growing independent papers in Liberia”, says an official of The Monitor Publications Limited, Asilmwe Alex.
Mr. Alex urged the Liberia media executives to work for society and not for a particular person or institution. “Be natural, don’t take side, be focused and committed to what you do and let the society judge you,” he emphasized.
During the entire study tour , the Liberian press was challenged to work together as a force, support each other in terms of seeking laws that would help the Liberian press grow and cultivate partnership in achieving its common goals.
A one thousand mile media journey from the West to the East Africa and from Liberia to Uganda, should serve as a bridge to anti-division, unity among the Liberian media in order to move the country to the standard of modern society.