REGULATION & POLICY

Liberia: Law to Regulate Broadcasting Media Outlets Passed

The Plenary of the House of Representatives, Thursday, September 11, 2008 at its regular Session unanimously voted and passed into law an Independent Broadcasting Regulator for Liberia following hectic arguments among the Lawmakers.

The draft bill is part of two other bills that were submitted to the National Legislature in July of this year by the Liberia Media Law and Reform Policy Working Group in close consultation with the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL), as well as other Civil Society Organizations

Two other bills include the Freedom of Information Act of 2008, and the Act to transform LBS in to a Public Broadcaster that are still in Committee room, even though, public hearings were conducted as well in a bid to evaluate them.

The House Plenary then mandated its Committee on Information, Broadcasting and Tourism to scrutinize and cross examine the draft legislation, aimed at advising the Plenary whether said bill shall be passed into law or not.

The Committee in fulfilment of its mandate then conducted Public hearings on the proposed draft Act to establish an Independent Broadcasting Regulator For Liberia, and sought expert opinions from two professors, Lamina Warity who is also one of the Commissioners at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority(LTA) and Joe Mulbah, Chairman of the Department Mass Communication at the University of Liberia and a veteran Liberian Broadcaster, Aaron Kollie.

In their presentations before the committee at the time the three media executives asked the committee for the passage of the draft bill into law reasoning that the bill is in the interest of Liberians and will serve to enhance democratization, promote transparency, and fair play with in the Country's media landscape.

At Thursday Session, the Committee under the chairmanship of Grand Bassa County Representative Vinicious Hodges presented the committee report to the Plenary recommending and among other thing the passage of the Independent Broadcasting Regulator for Liberia in to law.

The Committee report did not meet up with much resistance from lawmakers as was expected, but after less time debates among the Lawmakers on the passage of the draft Legislation into law, Lofa County Representative, Eugene Fallah Kpaka made a motion for the passage of the bill into law, which was overwhelmingly voted by majority members who attended the Session.

Immediately upon passage into law the draft bill by the Representatives, House Speaker, Alex Tyler mandated the House chief clerk to send the bill to the Liberian Senate for its concurrence. The draft legislation when the Liberian Senate concur with the House and printed into hand bill among other things will seek to make provision for the regulation of Broadcasting with the view to promote independent, pluralistic broadcasting in the public interest.

The draft bill when passes into law by the National Legislature will se the stage for the establishment of a commission which is expected to be supported by the Liberian Government through budgetary appropriations as well as sources from its International Partners and among others.

Additionally, when the Draft bill sail through at the Liberian Senate and becomes law, the act creating the ministry of Information specially the authority and the legal power given the ministry to regulate Broadcasting media outlets in the country is expected to be repealed , and as such transferring the ministry function to regulate broadcasting institutions across the length and breath of Liberia to the new Commission which will further license all Broadcasting Media outlets operating in the country.

The Commission shall composed of five individuals members known as Commissioners, one of which shall be appointed as chairperson , one as Vice chairperson who shall act as chairperson in the absence of the chairperson.

The Commissioners shall be nominated by the president in close consultation with an Independent body to be established as well as civil society institutions.

Additionally during the public hearing, the issues of establishing a commission was also a major issue that was raised by several Liberian Journalists who went in their numbers to witness the debate.

They told the drafter of the bill that there was a need for the regulation of print Media institutions in the country as was be proposed in the case of Broadcast Institutions

But the Representatives of the Liberia Media Law and Policy Reform Working Group, who drafted the bill and the parent body of Journalists in Liberia, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) that by International best practice, the Print Media need no commission for regulation, and as such, Liberia as part of the global community must abide by that principle.

The Analyst Monrovia

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