MONROVIA – As the umbrella organization that monitors and supervises the activities of media institutions and journalists in the country, the Press Union of Liberia is expected to once again exercise its critical watchdog role during the upcoming 2023 presidential and general elections by ensuring that the media provides unbiased, impartial and balanced, conflict-sensitive coverage of political aspirants, political institutions and electoral events, and as well create the necessary platform for the voters to properly evaluate political candidates and their platforms. But as The Analyst reports, with the PUL itself now mired in controversies and legal wrangling over its 2022 Elective Congress, veteran Liberian journalist Aaron B. Kollie says the PUL must live to its reputation by ensuring that the contentions of all parties are adjudicated through legal remedies instead of following the “brazen and egregious ill-advised legal judgment by a Liberian court”.
According to a November 20, 2022 issued by long-time broadcast journalist and media trainer Aaron B. Kollie, last Saturday evening’s late after-hour ruling handed down by the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Gbarnga, Bong County, in the disputed Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Elective Congress, is the most historically brazen and egregious ill-advised legal judgment by a Liberian court in recent time, and must be must be rejected and resisted by the Liberian media in all its forms,”
According to the veteran Liberian journalist, the ruling by the court, in a newly cherished judiciary, headed by Chief Justice Sie-A-Nyene Yuoh, that has won public admiration and approbation for its open declaration to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor, has the sole intent and purpose of sowing seeds of discord and disunity within the PUL that should not be entertained, but urgently reviewed at the highest level of the judiciary.
“The letter and/or spirit of law in the instant case, has been openly and wantonly shredded by a sitting judge, extended to a Journalist’s Union that will not go unchallenged legally. This action has all the trappings and smells of external arms-twisting and interference, requiring urgent intervention by all stakeholders to safeguard the integrity and sanctity of the media community and the judiciary in Liberia,” Kollie added in his statement.
It can be recalled that by the late evening hours of Saturday, November 19, 2022, a court sitting in Gbargna, Bong County reportedly overturned a writ of injunction that had been sought and secured by the Julius Kanubah Team on account of an alleged uncleaned voter’s registry to which the Daniel Nyankonah Team was reportedly preying on to win the Journalists Union’s presidency and its next corps of leadership.
A deeply concerned Kollie stated that reasoning and common sense must prevail, as the court in Gbarnga “should have at least done the honorable thing by giving both sides, the complainant and the accused, the benefit of the doubt to be heard, in order to determine the merit and demerit of the case at bar,” before hastily rendering or serving out a judgment/ruling in a late Saturday evening judicial bonanza.
Describing the Gbargna court’s ruling as one compared to a “kangaroo-type” court setting that witnessed supporters of the faction allegedly accused of “voter’s roll fraud,” the revered Liberian Media stakeholder added that such a voting under the cover of darkness at the Gbarnga Administrative building to elect a new PUL leadership, to the exclusion of the complainant faction,“ will certainly not hold in the journalism community in Liberia, with a one-sided rubber-stamped leadership, to the exclusion of other key stakeholders, regardless of who eventually wins.
Current and outgoing Vice President of the PUL, Daniel Nyankonah, an experienced journalist with huge institutional knowledge of the workings of the PUL after nearly a decade of going through the ranks and files of the Union, has since been pitted against Julius Kanubah, a former Assistant Secretary General of the Union and another experienced journalist and media training specialist, to replace Charles Coffey whose two terms come to an end during this year’s Congress holding in the central Liberian city of Gbarnga.
With ‘Team Kanubah’ boycotting the Gbarnga event after securing the writ of injunction, an overnight event that reportedly overturned the legal halt to the process took place in which Mr. Nyankonah was reportedly pronounced winner, to the exclusion of Mr. Julius Kanubah.
Calling for the intervention of the epic judiciary house, Mr. Kollie, who formerly chaired the PUL’s Electoral Commission that brought about Charles Coffey’s first term, adds that the Gbarnga saga is unprecedented in the history of the Press Union of Liberia: “….and I wish to recount that the Honorable Chief Justice of Liberia, is on record for calling on judges and magistrates to attach seriousness to judicial canon 5, in dispensing blind justices to persons before their respective courts. The judicial canon 5 states that the court is the last place of hope for man on earth.”
Moreover, Mr. Kollie’s concerns seem tailored to the issue of legitimacy.
“Let’s not fool ourselves into mistakenly believing that the stone-age sheer or autocratic-crowned recognition of a Prince, would amount to legitimacy of a union leadership that does not enjoy the overwhelming mandate of its membership. (In this case, the Daniel Nyankonah’s team, accruing onto itself, in a one-sided uncontested election, less than 30 percent votes of the total membership of the PUL). The media community in Liberia is not embroiled in a David versus Goliath’s fight for supremacy, as the PUL has always been a fraternity of common bonds amongst its members. And I’m sure, consciously, Daniel Nyankonah, a decent and well respected professional, would not want to be seen presiding over a Union with a one-sided rubber-stamped leadership, lacking legitimacy of its general membership. At this stage, we do not need a factionalized or balkanized PUL, but one united in strength and purpose,” Kollie noted.
He then cautioned the outgoing President of the Union, Mr. Coffey, to not exit the PUL leadership, bequeathing a Union divided in tatters, but one committed to continuously promoting media freedom, democracy, the rule of law and pluralism, as well as holding the powerful in society in checks and accountable. Hence, the need for a reconciled and united PUL, is even more demanding now, than at any time in the history of the Union.
In a related development, an unconfirmed report says the legal team of ‘Team Kanubah’ is contemplating further legal action to offset what happened in Gbarnga.