With most civil society organizations in the country recoiling into their shell due to natural fatigue and/or because some have diluted their potency with political meddling, the Press of Liberia (PUL) stands out, arguably, as the last vestige of the Liberian people’s struggle for democratic rights and civic advocacy. Half century and six since its founding, the organization has stood the test of time, firm and critical amidst the whirlwind of political bully and economic temptations. Last weekend, its members and supporters retreated to the Western City of Tubmanburg, Bomi County, to reflect on the arduous journey of over five decades and six years to celebrate its triumph over adversities. At the end of the ceremonies, the Union announced a set of powerful recommendations amongst which is an overwhelming rejection of the December 8, 2020 Referendum sponsored by the Government of Liberia. The Analyst reports.
Liberian journalists’ celebration of its 56th anniversary was not just about pomp and pageantry nor was it a mere talking shop. There was time for sober reflection of the socioeconomic and political ecosystem in which its members operate and how to devise means to cope with the odds prevailing and remain relevant.
At the end of its all, the Union drew up nine solid recommendations not merely on the need for members to adjust their mode of operations as to merit the public trust and confidence, but also for Government to improve the regulatory regime to bolster the unfettered exercise of the right to free speech and free press.
On top of the recommendations was also the call for the Government to consider the postponement of the pending National Referendum on a plethora of Constitutional issues.
The journalists who gathered at the Tubmanburg anniversary celebration mandated the leadership of the PUL to write the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the National Legislature to inform them about the “unanimous conclusion by the media community” on pending national referendum which they consider “untimely” and should be postponed until an adequate public education and sensitization process is conducted.
Other recommendations included a call for practicing journalists to, at all times, avoid the temptation of publically endorsing and declaring support for politicians before, during and after electioneering period.
“The PUL should ensure that media institutions owned by politicians must at all times maintain professional and ethical standards, including provision of accurate, balanced and clear news content that are also conflict-sensitive; and ensuring that no practicing journalist is required by media owners and managers to play propagandist roles,” said the communique released at the end of the 56th Anniversary celebration.
The journalists also want conversations and final agreement with media owners and managers on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to be reignited.
The communique states further that the PUL should continue to work with the government and partners towards significant media reform, including revisiting existing guidelines/regulations for the establishment and running of media institutions.
“The PUL must accelerate ongoing efforts towards the establishment of the proposed Independent National Media Commission with sectoral regulatory mandates,” they Liberian media community also declared, adding: “The PUL should re-enforce its media monitoring to track the performances, ethical and professional standards of media institutions across the country, and accordingly report to the republic its findings on a regular basis.”
On day one of the Tubmanburg gathering, the journalists conducted one edition of the prestigious PUL Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum, which brought together three of the five senatorial candidates in the county into a direct triangular media-politicians-public engagement on governance issues that covered health, education, agriculture and social services.
On day two, three important sessions were held. One session on the ‘Essence of True Independent Journalism During Elections’ explored underlying reasons and suggesting solutions for Liberian journalists to stay truly independent during elections at all times. Two other sessions were held on understanding the proposed 2020 referendum and the PUL Code of Ethics and Elections Reporting Guide.