The House of Representatives has at long last passed the proposed “Rural Community Radio Stations Sustainability Act of 2012” into Law, and forwarded it to the Liberian Senate for concurrence.
The Act, which seeks to promote the decentralization of information to rural dwellers, was passed on Tuesday following the reading of a report submitted to Plenary by its Joint Committee on Information, Culture and Tourism, and Ways, Means and Finance and Judiciary.
Under the Act, the Liberian government will, through budgetary allocations, provide support for the rural radio stations which play very critical role in informing rural inhabitants through local vernaculars. Most of the country’s nearly 4 million population remain illiterate and depend on local vernaculars to properly digest information of policy decisions.
According to the Liberia News Agency, the Legislation was submitted to the Committee since February 7, 2012 by Plenary for scrutiny and review as well as advice.
The Committee in the report indicated that it conducted public hearing in March 2012 to solicit the expert opinions of stakeholders in the Information Sector.
The Committee said it carried out intensive research and consulted information experts and media practitioners on the essence of the Legislation, something that resulted to technical adjustment in the instrument.
The 17-man Committee disclosed that during its research and consultation, it found out that the bill enjoyed the overwhelming support of Liberians, especially rural dwellers, as it has the propensity to help in the dissemination of government policies and activities throughout the country.
According to the Committee, the Rural Community Stations Sustainability Act is in consonance with the Constitution of Liberia as enshrined in Article 15b which states that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impact knowledge and information available”.
In the report, the committee noted that even in the absence of the bill, which also seeks Government’s subsidy to rural community stations that meet certain benchmarks, the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism is supporting community radio stations.
There are 50 community radio stations currently in operation in Liberia. Most of these stations have been facing serious financial constraints, according to reliable sources.