Behind the Liberia News Agency (LINA)
The Liberia News Agency (LINA) was established in 1979 as part of a comprehensive communication policy that sought to harness the information arm of the Liberian Government to build a viable, united, and cohesive nation-state. LINA operated in the unique role of mobilizing the citizens for nation-building, economic and social development, national unity and integration.
With support from some development partners, notably the German Government, LINA established and effectively operated bureaus throughout Liberia. As a central news collection agent of the state, LINA gathered and reported news from all regions of the country. With such national spread, the Agency was able to promote a viable, united and cohesive nation by highlighting stories that engendered development, integration, and peace.
LINA was headed by a Director-General and two deputies (administration and editorial services). All three were appointed by the President of Liberia, with the Director-General bearing the rank of a Deputy Minister and the two deputies carrying assistant minister ranks.
Unfortunately, the Agency became one of the casualties of the Liberian civil war (1989 to 2003). During the war, the entire network of LINA – furniture, vehicles, electronic transmission equipment, etc) were looted or destroyed, thus killing the Agency for the next 23 years.
In January of 2006, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was inaugurated as President of Liberia. Immediately thereafter, her Government and its development partners began making frantic efforts to rebuild Liberia, re-establish peace, and reconcile the Liberian people.
In her first six-year term, President Sirleaf successfully implemented her signature development program, the Poverty Reduction Strategy. Eight months into her second term, the president and her cabinet rolled out another batch of development programs, including the much-heralded “Vision 2030” development agenda.
The need for LINA’s rebirth
As plausible as these development programs looked, they were missing a key promoter – LINA – created to play the unique role of mobilizing the citizens for nation-building, economic and social development, national unity and integration.
LINA is “born again”
LINA was still in a prolonged coma. So, in September of 2012, Information Minister Lewis G. Brown thought the time had finally come to resuscitate LINA. He successfully sold the idea to President Sirleaf and her cabinet. Immediately after obtaining the approval of cabinet, Minister Brown launched the Liberia News Agency Reactivation Project. The Minister also hired an old hand of LINA, Jay Nagbe Sloh, to lead the reactivation efforts as Project Manager/Director-General.
Although the best skills and expertise have been brought to bear, LINA is still struggling to fully bounce back because it remains at the bottom of the fierce competition for Government’s limited resources. Therefore, manpower development, logistics, and other critically-needed tools for success remain dreams.
Under phase one of the reactivation exercise, LINA is run by a skeleton staff, headed by a Project Manager, who performs the functions of the Director-General. Under phase two, LINA will revert to its pre-war structure (a Director-General, a deputy Director-General for Administration, a Deputy Director-General for Editorial Services, an Editor-in-Chief, journalists, computer technicians, support staff, and drivers). The bureaus in the 15 counties will also be re-established with each having a bureau chief and other staff (mainly reporters and stringers) whose number will be determined by the size of the bureau and available resources. Phase three will seek legislation that makes LINA autonomous (LINA is currently the only national news agency on planet Earth that operates under another agency – the Ministry of Information).
The new LINA
When up and fully running as of year three of the three-year project, will graduate from the analog equipment and technology to a much more modernized, digitized news gathering and reporting technology that gives it competitive advantage and enables it to deliver the following services to its subscribers:
State-of-the-art website updated hourly with fresh news;
Home news takers: a daily package of news consisting of stories from the head office, regional offices (bureaus), and stringers – highlighting political, socio-economic development programs and activities of the government. This will be compiled daily and made available to LINA subscribers via electronic medium and hard copies;
Foreign news bulletin will be a compilation of foreign news downloaded from major partners, such as the Middle East News Agency (MENA), Reuters, the Chinese News Agency (Xinhua), French News Agency (AFP), the Pan African News Agency (PANA), the German News Agency (DPA), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Ghana News Agency (GNA), Sierra Leone News Agency (SLENA), etc;
Diaspora Express: a daily package of Liberian news to be posted on all Liberian listservs and websites, especially EveryLiberian@yahoogroups.com (the meeting place of most Liberians abroad), the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), and the county associations. This will keep Diaspora Liberians adequately abreast of government policies, programs, and/or activities.
Beneficiaries of the products and services of the new LINA will include:
Urban and rural dwellers;
The Executive Mansion;
Ministries and Autonomous Agencies of Government;
The Liberian Senate;
The House of Representatives;
The United Nations;
Foreign missions near Monrovia;
Major local and international newspapers;
Major local and international radio and television stations;
The Central Bank of Liberia and commercial banking institutions;
“The nation has called, and we have answered. Now, it is time for us to deliver…! And we welcome all of the help anyone can offer us, because we know that WE DO NOT KNOW IT ALL,” says Jay Nagbe Sloh, Project Manager/Director-General.