Huge Division Plaguing PUL -WPFD Speaker Descends on Liberian Journalists

MONROVIA: One of the few progressive legacies of the Liberian people’s “struggle for rice and right” is the Press Union of Liberia, having survived various political and social turbulences since its birth nearly 60 years ago. During this period, hardly was the PUL ever grounded to a halt amid the adversities than in the last two years when this major fulcrum of Liberian democracy begun deeply factionalized and torn apart by petit quarrels. The keynote speaker invited to talk to journalists Friday, May 3, at ceremonies marking the celebration of World Free Freedom Day made some uncomfortable statements about the Union and Liberian journalists, as The Analyst reports.

James Kpadeh Mulbah, who is Port Manager at Roberts International Apport, was invited by Liberian journalists to be this year’s World Press Freedom Day’ keynote speaker, and was given the topic, “Journalism in the face of environmental crisis” to speak on. But before he ever spoke on the assigned topic, he first made a number of comments that essentially amounted to rephrasing of the original topic, ‘journalism in the face of self-made crisis.’

“There is a huge division in the media nowadays,” he said boldly in the faces of the predominantly journalist audience on May 3. “Certain group of people consider themselves superior. Some are mostly marginalized, and less attentions are paid to them, making them vulnerable and incapacitated.

“As a result of this division, so many achievements should be made by the Union, but because of self-interest /personal gains, the Union has become a toothless bull dog.”

Mr. Mulbah said Liberian journalists are creating an environment that is very unrealistic and unjustifiable.

He said: “You must know the fundamental reasons you were established.  Almost 60 years old as a Union, there is nothing to show. This is the time to rekindle your thoughts to help gravitate our society and your Press Union that used to be a very noble institution. I personally think the Union does not have both Strategy and Sustainability Plans. No institution survives without plan.”

He reflected on years back when, according to him, he was excited when the union decided to buy a land on the 14th Street in Sinkor.

“As we speak, there is nothing done on said property. As members of the fourth estate, this is the time to rethink,” he told the assembly of journalists.

Also reflecting on the historicity of the occasion, he said, “Today is a historical day. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993 as World Press Freedom Day, following the recommendation of UNESCO’s General Conference. Since then, 3 May, is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.”

According to him May 3 acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. It is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics. It is an opportunity to: celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

He said the PUL was basically set up to advocate for press freedom and the protection of journalists, but since its founding, the Union has grown to a vibrant pro-democracy group that has championed not only media matters, but issues affecting the democratic governance of the state, social justice and human rights.

But he noted that the PUL is losing its salt and esteem amongst pro-democracy advocates with whom it has allied in the fight for greater freedom and liberty for the people of Liberia.

Speaking on Theme

Speaking on the assigned topic, Mr. Mulbah referenced the UNESCO report of 2023 which opines that more than 70% of environmental journalists have been attacked for their work since 2009, This has threatened the lives of journalists covering the climate crisis.

At least 749 environmental journalists have faced violence and intimidation in the last 15 years, he said.

He quoted the report as saying that 44 reporters were murdered between 2009 and 2023 but that resulted in just five convictions.

According to Audrey Azoulay, Director General of Unesco.  “Without reliable scientific information about the ongoing environmental crisis, we can never hope to overcome it. And yet the journalists we rely on to investigate this subject and ensure information is accessible face unacceptably high risks all over the world,”.

He said journalists encounter significant challenges in seeking and disseminating information on contemporary issues, such as supply-chains problems, climate migration, extractive industries, illegal mining, pollution, poaching, animal trafficking, deforestation, or climate change.

Mr. Mulbah further said: “Dis-/misinformation about environmental issues can lead to a lack of public and political support for climate action, effective policies, and the protection of vulnerable communities affected by climate change, as well as of women and girls, as climate change tends to exacerbate existing inequalities. To achieve sustainable development, it is necessary for journalists to report accurately, timely, and comprehensively on environmental issues and their consequences, as well as on possible solutions.”

On environmental crisis in Liberia, he said it includes the deforestation of tropical rainforest, the hunting of endangered species for bush meat, the pollution of rivers and coastal waters from industrial run-off and raw sewage, and the burning and dumping of household waste.

“We cannot handle these environmental issues without the media playing critical role in the of this crisis,” he said, adding: “Liberia does not have a National Policy on Waste management. We cannot fight environmental crisis without policy documents.

“According the last waste composition analysis done in 2011, 43% of our waste are organic, 14% plastic, 10% Paper and the rest our other mix waste. If we can only add value to these wastes, we reduce burring and burning of waste and this will help protect our planet.”

The RIA Manager called on the PUL to empower its secretariat to develop a clear strategy and Sustainability Plan of the Union, something he said would help the Union to have a clear direction for growth and development.

Recommendations to Journalists

He also urged the Union to set up a committee that will take the Union to a National Reconciliation for Journalists, during this period of reconciliation, let members express themselves and the team can find a way forward; establish a business development arm of the union (This arm will help to seeking funding for the construction of the union office and to also do other investments; establish an Association of “Environmental Journalists of Liberia” under the Union; and create opportunity for Journalists (Limited opportunity is contributing to Yellow Journalism).

He noted that environmental crisis is a global issue that need serious attention. We can only achieve this collectively without politicizing the fight.

Comments are closed.