18.04.2012 - UNESCO

Mano River Union to celebrate World Press Freedom Day

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia - © Staton Winter, UNMIL

A Mano River Union regional conference, to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day, will take place in Monrovia, Liberia, sponsored by UNESCO, DANIDA, ICFJ and CFI (Canal France international) in collaboration with IREX, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the UN Peace Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and other local partners.

The conference, to be convened on 2 May 2012 at Monrovia’s SKD Stadium, will attract ministers responsible for information, media practitioners and journalists from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. It will focus on the following themes:

  • Journalism,
  • Peace and Democracy: How to Use Media Freedom to Improve the Democratic Development of a Country,
  • Role of the Media in Transitional Environments, and
  • Fostering Accountability.

There will be special presentations on the importance of preserving media freedoms; promoting voices for peace in West Africa; the role of traditional and new media; women peacemakers and media; press freedom and media regulation in Africa; and creating an enabling environment for media in transition and accountability. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, will officially open the conference in her role as the current Chair of the Mano River States Union.

Journalists and other stakeholders will march in the streets of Monrovia on World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2012. University students will participate in a debate on freedom of information and media laws. The series of events will culminate with a PUL media awards ceremony, to be held on 4 May 2012 at Golden Gate Hotel in Monrovia, to recognize leading journalists for their coverage of important stories in Liberia during 2011.

The World Press Freedom Day events in Liberia are being held within the context of UNESCO’s DANIDA-funded project on strengthening freedom of information in the Mano River States. This pilot project has made great achievements. Not only has Liberia enacted a Freedom of Information Law, but stakeholders also have been mobilized on mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation. An important component of the project is training sessions on media sustainability as well as the Media Business and Sustainability Exchange programme, a UNESCO-ICFJ initiative launched last November in cooperation with IREX and SPARK, which aims to improve the financial capacity of major independent media organizations in Liberia.

The Mano River Union includes Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. These countries have undergone tremendous changes in the past decade, emerging from bloody conflicts that have left hundreds of thousands of people dead, maimed or displaced. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire have suffered the brunt of violent conflict, civil and political unrest. These three countries are now grappling with ensuring a sustainable post-conflict stability within the framework of democratic governance.

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