Public information is increasingly recognized as contributing to individuals’ awareness, knowledge, and ultimately perceptions and attitudes about events and programs happening around them, including efforts at building peace and resolving conflicts. Since access to information may shape perception, we included a series of questions on access to media, consumption habits, and perception of various sources of public information.
In general, one-third of the population reported being not at all or very little informed about events in the community (34%), and over half felt the same about events happening in Liberia in general (54%). In comparison with the other counties, respondents in Greater Monrovia were most likely to report being well informed about events happening in Liberia. However, they were also on average least informed about events happening in their community.
Sixty-three percent of the respondents identified the radio as their main source of information, and 29% mentioned friends or family, an informal source of information. The counties in which people relied most frequently on friends and family were Grand Kru (61%), River Gee (54%), and Rivercess (54%).
While 63% of the population identified radio as the main source of information, as many as 83% reported listening to the radio at least occasionally. In Greater Monrovia and Margibi, half the population reported listening to the radio every day (respectively 54% and 50%).
Results presented in table 2 show that respondents listened to a range of radio stations, most frequently national stations, including UNMIL Radio (58%), Star Radio (31%), and ELBC (27%), and internationally, BBC (29%). Local radio stations also had an important role in providing information to the population in certain regions, however. For example, 59% of the respondents in Bomi indicated listening at least occasionally to Radio Bomi.
The most popular programs on the radio were news broadcasts, reportedly listened to by 72% of respondents, followed by music/entertainment (49%), and religious programs (38%).
Although newspapers were seldom mentioned as the main source of information (1%), nearly a third of respondents indicated reading newspapers at least occasionally (29%). As Table 3 illustrates, only in Greater Monrovia did a sizeable percentage of the population report reading newspapers on a daily basis (15%). Inversely, newspaper readership was least frequent in Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Kru, Lofa, Rivercess, and Sinoe. The most commonly read newspapers were the Daily Observer (21% of the population), the Inquirer (11%), and the New Democrat (10%).
Similarly, 1% of the population identified the television as their main source of information, but a significantly larger proportion used television as a source of information at least occasionally. In fact more Liberians reported watching television at least occasionally (32%) than they did reading newspapers (29%).
Overall, Liberians indicated a high level of trust in the media. Just 15% believed journalists had no or very little freedom to report on social and political events in Liberia. Less than a third did not trust journalists on the radio (not at all or very little–26%), or what is printed in the newspaper (27%).
Respondents were further asked to rate the changes in their access to information since the 2005 presidential election. A large majority reported that access to information had improved (66%), and a third felt it had stayed the same (32%). Few believed it had worsened (3%). Only in Grand Kru did a sizeable proportion of the population (14%) report a worsening of their access to information over the 2005 to 2010 period.