By Antoinette Sendolo
The media is still lagging behind on reporting and prioritizing stories on accountability of Ebola funds in the country something which has claimed the attention of the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) and the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).
According to a preliminary report released by IREX, out of 1,190 stories published and broadcast by 14 institutions both print and electronic media monitored by IREX during the period under review (July-August 2015), only 140 stories were Ebola related and 40 of them reported something relating to Ebola funds or resource accountability, and it ranged from reports about donations, pledges and complaints about benefits for Ebola workers.
The report also showed that out of the one hundred and forty stories coded from several newspapers, not one Ebola accountability story made it as a front page lead; eleven of the accountability stories reported were published as front page sub-leads; ten as back page leads; twenty-four as back page sub-leads and eighty-eight were inside stories while out of the fifty-one stories coded from the radio stations, nothing on accountability of Ebola funds made it as major headlines.
Speaking at the launch of the report named “Monitoring the Monitor”, the head of CEMESP, Malcolm Joseph, said the report is not an audit to nail people and it is not a classroom examination of one media house above the other or providing judgment but an effort to help strengthen the media to improve its reports on accountability of Ebola funds in the country.
He noted that the media has focused its attention to reporting political issues rather than accountability stories stressing that there is a need for journalists to redirect their focus and style of reporting.
Also speaking, the Senior Media Specialist of IREX,Maureen Sieh said though the media has improved on its style of reporting about the Ebola crisis, it is indeed significant for journalists to focus on reporting on accountability of Ebola funds and as well as the impacts they have on the populace.
She said accountability reporting is new for the Liberian media; although they have reported on corruption but reporting on accountability of Ebola funds remains a challenge.
According to her, some International Organizations and partners gathered resources to fight the deadly Ebola virus and as such, the media has a significant role to play in ensuring that people account for those funds.
At the same time, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Kamara A. Kamara thinks that journalists need to take the issue of accountability seriously stressing that accountability is closely in line with transparency and it is very crucial for the media.
He expressed disappointment over the low pace of journalists in using the Freedom Of Information Act which is intended to facilitate the works of journalists in the country.