By Mark N. Mengonfia
The European Union Election Observation Mission in Liberia (EU EOM) has highlighted the pitfalls of some media institutions during the just-ended elections in Liberia.
The EU MOE in its preliminary report said its media monitoring showed that the Liberia Broadcasting System channels continued to offer most of their coverage to the government, ruling CDC something they said impacted voters’ ability to make an informed choice.
The group said, “Mistrust in state-owned media among opposition parties remained high, thus they relied on other media outlets for communication with their supporters.” EU EOM added, “On TV channel LNTV and radio ELBC, 88 and 70 percent respectively of the time allocated to political parties went to CDC.”
According to its report released in Monrovia recently, the Unity Party received just under five percent of airtime on LNTV during prime time hours. EU EOM media monitoring furthered that voter education, including by the NEC, was largely absent during the runoff.
The institution said in its report that radio broadcaster Truth FM, which offered most of its polite and election-related tone to Collaborating Political Party (CPP) in the first round, shifted its attention to the ruling CDC recording 47 percent while UP received 18 percent of the content dedicated to political parties on the channel.
EU EOM said, “OK FM and Prime FM we fairly balanced in the distributed airtime given to both CDC and UP during prime-time hours.”
The observation Mission of EU said ECOWAS radio dedicated less time hours. They also highlighted that Front Page Africa, Daily Observer and The Inquirer Newspapers dedicated most space to the CDC during the runoff campaign, attributing twice as much space to the ruling party. The EU EOM observed that media freedom was generally respected during the campaign period for the runoff voting. The group said political patronage, low salaries and a lack of diversity finding streams continued to negatively impact the quality and diversity of messages transmitted to the public.
The Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) is a state-owned radio and television network in Liberia. Founded as a Corporation in 1960, the network was owned and operated by Rediffusion, London until 1968, when management passed to the Government of Liberia. The network began broadcasting television as the Liberia Broadcasting Corporation in 1964. Following the 1980 coup d’état, the newly formed People’s Redemption Council gave the network its current name. As a result of the First Liberian Civil War, the company briefly ceased broadcasting in 1990, because the network’s premises were heavily damaged by war and looters over the next seven years.
The station later continued to broadcast all through the war after its home in Paynesville, outside Monrovia became inaccessible Monrovia. Upon the arrival of the West African peace keeping mission, ECOMOG, to Liberia in 1990, The Force provider a space for LBS to continue its broadcast at the Monrovia Free Zone, on the Bushroad Island, where the Peace Keepers were based. The station later moved to the Ducor Continental Hotel on upper broad street in central Monrovia where LBS operated until 1998 (following the election and inauguration of Charles Taylor as president of Liberia) when it moved back to Paynesville.
The network continues to provide radio broadcasts, though the lack of proper equipment limited the broadcasts to a sixty-mile radius around Monrovia. In 2008, the Chinese government installed a new 10 kW FM transmitter, along with several secondary transmitters throughout the country, which extended the network nationwide. Additionally, the network reestablishes its television service, the Liberia National Television for the Monrovia area, in the beginning, with plans to extend it nationwide.