Monrovia 24st June 2019: At an Editors forum to unveil a USAID-LAVI sponsored project in furtherance of a civil society driven electoral reform project implemented by the Elections Coordinating Committee, ECC, one major takeaway has been the need for journalists to look at the process as distinct from covering and reporting the elections.
This caution is calling for a more proactive approach whereby journalists must ask the right questions from various stakeholders to be in an informed position in keeping the public abreast with the pertinent developments.
The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, as a member of the ECC with responsibility for a range of media facilitation and awareness raising activities, organized this YMCA session that had in attendance some twenty senior journalists who have recognized their pivotal role in strengthening Liberia electoral laws.
Speaking a the forum held on June 21, 2019 in the auditorium of the YMCA, Journalist Frank Sainworla of Public Trust Media said that there are very good provisions in the Liberian election laws, but it has been an issue of enforcement challenge to be resolved in consistent advocacy as democracy is not only a six years affair. He referenced the campaign finance issue as one of such provisions that were flouted by all political parties.
Media Specialist of LAVI Maureen Sieh said it is of essence to form a social media network of Electoral Reform Editors where issues will be routinely discussed to keep the reform process in traction.
Most of the editors present at the forum agreed that Liberia has a very good elections law albeit with loose ends that must be tied under the reform process.
CEMESP Executive Director Malcolm Joseph said that there are integrated activities under this project and it is but important for journalists to have a clearer picture of what will be rolled out over a period of one year.
In a power point presentation the project objective and strategies were disclosed by EEC member and Head of IRED, Harold Aidoo, who indicated that among other things, it is all about improving on Liberia’s electoral legal framework.
Key issues that the EEC has noted for reform are the elections date to be changed from rainy to dry season, arbitration of electoral disputes to be taken from the NEC and handled by a more independent tribunal, voter registration, women representation to be made binding rather than left at the discretion of political parties, domicile provision for those who want to contest elections, among other things.
The Acting Head of Communications at the National Elections Commission, Prince Dumbar, lauded the ECC initiative, stating that it is buttressing the work of the commission in its ongoing county level consultation to make needed amends on the election laws. He underscored the need to make NEC more independent, by reviewing the process of constituting the board of commissioners from appointive to elective. He added that the ECC should incorporate the opinion of the Supreme Court as in the instance where it has been posited that elections results should not be announced when there is a pending elections petition case in court.
The need to merge the NEC led amendment areas with what ECC has put together for journalists to analyze and popularize has been a core recommendations from the YMCA Editors forum.
It was a spirited interactive session validating the EEC as an effective local elections observatory and it stirred the profound interest of journalists, who have been challenged by USIAD-LAVI to come out with suggestions on support areas to hold the forged partnership together.
ECC looks forward to an end of project lessons learnt documentation of the chain actions culminating to the submission of the reform suggestions to the legislature.