Catholic Media Association of West Africa (CAMAWA) has met ahead of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Anglophone West Africa (AECAWA) meeting today at the Kairaba Beach Hotel to discuss on youth issues among others. CAMAWA members gathered at a day's meeting at Shalom, Fajara on Monday to give report of their country's Catholic communication situations and how they have been forging ahead. Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia were represented at the meeting.
Bishop Robert Patrick Ellison CSSp welcomed the communicators and wished them well in their deliberations after Fr. Peter Stephen Lopez's welcome remarks.
Rev. Fr. Raphael Madu, Secretary General of CAMAWA moderated the meeting and asked for members to present their country's reports.
Joseph Ezekiel Thulla Jr., representing Sierra Leone said was delighted to give an up date of communication activities of his country. The talk centered on communication, challenges and successes, recommendations and conclusion. He said Sierra Leone is facing series of challenges because Social Communication as a discipline is a new phenomenon to Sierra Leoneans. "The existence of Radio, television, Internet, video production, magazines or News Letter production is considered very seriously but with challenges and successes," he said. He said the advent of new cooperate organization, the Church in Sierra Leone is faced with huge responsibilities in utilizing its media houses to enable them perform their social responsibilities to the people they serve. Joseph Ezekiel Thulla Jr. further said that the lack of church media personnel has also led to tedious media work. Other problems, he said was the neutralization of the political landscape in Sierra Leone by the church's media. Maintaining sustainable religious tolerance is another challenge for the church's media and its practitioners in Sierra Leone. Lack of finance, financial contributions by the laity, using media to eliminate immoral practices, establishing a strong national communications office that can encourage convergence of media practitioners are among the challenges.
Talking on their successes said they have a Sierra Leone Catholic Magazine headed by Fr. Augustine Berewa at the Pastoral Centre in Kenema. He said they tackle pertinent areas of society. Others are the Sierra Leone Catholic Radio: Radio Maria, Catholic Television that they have secured licenses for its operation, Internet café, traditional media, as it attracts songs, riddles, proverbs, parables, drama and the like.
Internet Project in Ghana: Dan Dzide, Executive Secretary of the Department of Social Communication says "We had completed the installation of V-SAT dishes in most Diocese by August 2008. Enquiries showed that SIGNIS head office in Rome had revealed that the system had been slowed down on purpose, to induce subscribers to catch up with their subscription." He said subscribers were to pay directly into a designated account in Rome for services they receive. "I am pleased to announce that the NSC was able to pay off the collective arrears of 51,840.00 Euro to SIGNIS, today most diocese pay directly to SIGNIS through a special account and they are currently enjoying improved and regular services," he said.
Dan Dzide said the non-payment of membership dues over the years has retarded fruitful working relations with bodies such as SIGNIS and UCIP but have paid arrears accrued between 2006-2009 have been paid to SIGIS. "We still owe UCIP unpaid membership dues. The Association of Catholic Media Practitioners in Ghana (CAMP-G) has been dormant. Meetings are generally infrequent and the mailing list of members is far from being completed. GTV has changed the airtime to 6 to 6:30am. Catholic Media Council would have training for diocesan director of Social Communication and some selected field staff in 2010. He said they have a Website remaining most time outdated but would make it by the end of the year," he said. He said they have Ghana Catholic diary, which is small but intend to improve on it. He presented copies of their weekly Catholic Standard Newspaper. He complained that their printing machines are outmoded and slow. "We shall not relent to improving on our weaknesses," Dan said.
Fr. Raphael Madu, Director, Social Communications f the Directorate of Social Communications Nigeria, reported on happenings between the last CAMAWA meeting in Abuja in December 2008 to date.
Fr. Raphael said they have produced a national Catholic Directory containing 700 pages. "We have reported to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Rome, the successful transmission of the Papal liturgical ceremonies for Christmas 2008, New Year 2009 ad Easter 2009 by both Nigeria Television Authority and Africa Independent Television," he said. He further said that they celebrated the World Communications Day.
Fr. Raphael said they had a meeting with Communications directors/Merit award for Diocesan Newspaper. They have also formulated curriculum for Social Communications in Major Seminaries and Houses of Formation. There would be a day's training /workshop for Seminary Formators in November. Meeting of Catholic Media Association of West Africa was a success and had brought Catholic Artists and Entertainer Association of Nigeria, the national body presenting a script captioned Behind the Scene for study and approval for the next production. Other areas include New studio, membership to SIGNIS World Congress in Chiang Mai Thailand, Networking, Publications, Satellite Coverage of Sunday Masses, ICT Workshop by SECAM, Refresher Seminar and UCIP General Assembly. He stressed that members create more awareness of the forthcoming Synod for Africa by way of publication in both Catholic and secular newspapers.
Talking about Liberia, Rev. Fr. Tony Borwah, Director of Communications, CABICOL gave the background of the Catholic Church's situation since the war that lasted for fifteen years. He said they had a lot of problems but they are striving positively. He talked about the structure of Radio Veritas, which had recently been struck by lightening. Under guiding principles, Fr. Tony talked about check and balances and how receipts are collected and attached to reports. Their principles at the Veritas Radio include their social responsibility to the public and many more. "We network with others and CAMCAM is a member of the Press Union of Liberia," he said. We have a website to be upgraded. He promised to participate actively in subsequent meetings of CAMAWA.
Fr. Peter Stephen Lopez, Social Communication Coordinator of The Gambia talked about the transformation that has taken place in the Catholic Communication system. He said they have a daily radio programme on KWT, Sunday Magazine on the GRTS, which many people look forward to. Pilgrim Companions, every Sunday, Kadu Dunda Gi, Day of the Lord, with host of radio programmes.
Fr. Mike Akpohiran OP, from Nigerian gave the relevance of ICT and volunteered to help with the creation of websites. He gave briefing on TREC. Petra Stammen opened doors to CAMECO and enlightened those who would look for funding.
Finally, members were urged to learn French to brace for their amalgamation with the French. The minute of the last meeting was read and the meeting closed with a prayer by Petra Stammen.