Gbarnga, Bong County – Ahead of the 2023 Presidential and General Elections in Liberia, ZOA in partnership with ANGIE BROOKS International Centre has ended a daylong dialogue with talk-show hosts and radio callers on pre-elections campaign activities in Gbarnga.
Giving an overview of the event, ZOA’s Project Officer in Bong County, Moses Bailey, said the one-day engagement was intended to enhance the understanding of citizens and media practitioners on major electoral policies ahead of the 2023 elections.
He said due to the lack of training for radio personnel and their regular callers, some key electoral laws are always violated unknowingly by them on various radio talk-shows in the county.
Facilitating the interactive forum at the Gbarnga Women Center, Mr. Daniel Newland, the Senior Elections Magistrate of Upper Bong for the National Elections Commission, clearly stated that pre-elections campaign is an offense under the Elections Law of Liberia, adding that it disrupts the level playing field for other candidates.
He said though NEC is yet to take action against violators, the fine for pre-election vampaign is five hundred United States Dollars (US$500.00) or its equivalence in Liberian Dollars.
“What pre-campaign does is that it disrupts the level playing field and also brings about provocation because others who observe the rules of elections are not given the opportunity to reach out to their people like the violators’’ Mr. Newland added.
The NEC’s staff used the medium to call on radio station’s management in the county to put in place measures that will prevent political actors from campaigning ahead of the appropriate time.
Also speaking, participants of the dialogue thanked ZOA and its supporting partners for the knowledge impacted in them thus promising to share with others.
Emmanuel Tamatai, an active radio caller in Gbarnga, lauded the two civil society organizations for the forum, but accused radio talk-show hosts of promoting pre-election campaign activities on their respective platforms. ”Like Mr. Daniel Newland said to us, the talk show hosts are the ones to control the activities of the callers in the morning, especially when there are issues under discussion. We as the callers are willing go by the rules and regulations but where sometimes the problem exists is when the first caller deviates from the main topic”, he added.
Making remarks on behalf of Bong County’s CSOs, Mr. Mulbah Howard, the Secretary General of the institution, began by commending ZOA and Angie Brooks for bringing together Journalists along with Radio callers to enlighten their minds on Pre-Election Campaigning.
“Pre-campaigning is just an issue that everyone needs to be careful of! In election activities, early warning pre-campaigning we need to take it very important,” he said.
Speaking earlier, Emmanuel Mulbah Ballah, a reporter and talk how Host at Radio Gbarnga termed the Face-to-Face Forum as an eyeopener for Journalists in Bong. “Many thanks to ZOA and its partners for this gathering, I think it is very important that we have such conversations with our brothers who are supporters of the Politicians ” , he said.
At the same time, Ballah admonished the heads of ZOA to extend the exercise to other Parts of the County.
ZOA in Bong County, Moses Bailey, has said the organization’s ‘Contributing to Reconciliation through Enhanced Co-existence, Resilience and Civic Engagement and Responsibility project in Bong, Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties, has made significant impacts in the three counties, maintaining peaceful co-existence among residents as part of government’s national development agenda, the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
The three-year project, which is co-financed by the European Union, commenced in 2020 and ends in December of 2022, is aimed at enhancing co-existence and civic engagement in the three Counties.