Thriving Media Conference in Monrovia

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Rev. Emmanuel Bowier, Former Information Minister of Liberia
About 75 Liberian media practitioners converged from July 21-23, 2010 to observe, what many considered the country’s first Christian media conference at the Headquarters of the Bible Society in Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia.

Sponsored by The Media Project (www.themediaproject.org) the conference was hosted by a young Christian media organization, Liberia Christian Journalists Network (LICJONET) under the Theme: “Let Your Light Shine”.

Former Information Minister of Liberia and United Methodist Cleric, Reverend Emmanuel Bowier served as keynote speaker. His relevance to the conference came from two fronts-as a preacher and the country’s former information minister who could tell clear and attractive story about the Christian faith, media and the nation itself. In his assertion, he began with questioning the role of Christian journalists to investigate and link the impact of Christianity over to the nation. He said Christian media practitioners in both mainstream and Christian media outlets need to adequately and accurately narrate Liberia’s Christian Heritage in order to dispel of misconceptions about the Christian origin of the nation.

Rev. Bowier underscored the significant contributions of the Christian community to the nation. In addition to Liberia’s birth in the church, he said, the first radio station (ELWA Radio) in the history of the nation was established by Christians.

The key speaker revealed that the Liberian Church through Liberian Council of Churches was the first to start peace negotiation between the two factions in 1990: the National Patriotic Front of Charles Taylor and the Samuel Doe Government of Liberia. From the inception of the war in 1990 during the regime of Late President Samuel Doe, Rev. Bowier revealed, that it was the Liberian Council of Churches in collaboration with the Muslim Community that convened the first peace meeting in June 1990 in Free Town, Sierra Lone. Liberia plunged itself into a brutal civil war for nearly 15 years.

Until 1986, the constitution of Liberia tagged the nation as a country “built on Christian Principle”, but the Constitutional Review Committee chaired by Dr. Amos Sawyer liberalized the constitution by removing that clause of Christian heritage. It is now constitutionally established that Liberia is a circular state. Bowier considers this as ungratefulness to God. After the 1986 Constitutional Review, the civil war started in 1989 in the nation; something Bowier termed as divine wrath on the nation.

In spite of all of these achievements, he wondered; why the Christian media sector was not focused on tell the story of the Church in Liberia.

The conference commenced 5 days to Liberia’s 163rd Independence Anniversary. Liberia was birthed in the oldest Baptist church in Africa, The Providence Baptist Church in 1847. The Declaration of Independence, which affirmed sovereignty of the nation to the world, was signed in the church on 26 July 1847. Today, the edifice still stands, facing the nation’s popular street, Broad Street in Monrovia.

Liberia Christian Journalists Network (LICJONET) was opportune to have had two international facilitators at the media conference. LICJONET invited the CEO of Media Project, Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjeldstad as lead facilitator and HCJB Global South Saharan Africa Training Coordinator, Jospeh Kebbie as one of the international facilitators.

Dr. Fjeldstad reminded the nation’s media landscape to be aware on religious diversity and that religious conflict undermines peace in the world. As such, balance and fair reporting of religious issues, like any other news story is very credible and necessary not only for standard tenants of Journalism but also Christianity. For three days, Dr. Fjeldstad taught Religious Reporting from several fronts. His organization, The Media Project (www.themediaproject.org) was the prime sponsor of the conference. Dr. Fjeldstad as well encouraged Liberian journalists, most of whom are Christian to be aware of religions including Islam and other faith in order to present their issues fair, balance and credible manner.

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Several journalists in Christian and mainstream media attended the 3 day conference
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Several local speakers challenged the participants

Strategic Tips on Radio

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The Christian media in Liberia is dominated broadcasters, which was also evident at the conference. This made it even more appropriate to have had a radio production session in those three days of deliberation. The Training Coordinator of HCJB Global- South Saharan Africa, Mr. Joseph Kebbie presented papers on strategic tips on radio program production.

It is proper to note that our international facilitators and their institutions shouldered the costs of their travel, hotel and local transportation and other expenses associated to staying in Liberia for a week.

In addition to training, the media conference also served as networking forum among Liberian journalists. The three day interaction took radio personnel from behind the microphone awhile to interact and develop new skills with their colleagues from other institutions across the country. This exercise proved to be fruitful and rewarding, most participants openly testified. They only hoped that someday such networking will extend beyond local to international.

LICJONET is very grateful to all of its local facilitators and motivational speakers at the conference. ELWA Radio sent two persons: Moses Nyanti and Perry Saydee who spoke on radio station sustenance and Christian media ethics respectively. Their facilitations turned talk provocative. The CEO of Christian Media Center of Liberia, Philip Sandi; United Methodist Youth leader, Edward Harmon; and Business Advisor for CHF International, Samuel Jacobs presented eloquently their topics which largely impacted the conferees. It is also the expectations of LICJONET that those skilled developed at the conference will be put in practice.

The Media Conference is planned as an annual event in Liberia.

The 2010 edition was sponsored by The Media Project and hosted by Liberia Christian Journalists Network Liberia, LICJONET. The host strongly anticipates sponsorship for 2011 forum.

Please contact LICJONET on cell phone numbers: +231-682479/+231-6589195/+231-6580328,

Email: liberiachristianpress@gmail.com, geostew206@yahoo.com, Isaydyu@yahoo.com

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Most of the participants at the end of the conference