MONROVIA: As concerns mount on the negative impact Social Media may have on the ensuing 2023 general elections and how to avert any crisis arising from disinformation, misinformation and spreading of fake news 5 major political parties in the country have signed on to an agreement to reaffirm their commitment to abide and respect all the terms and conditions spelt out in the Farmington River Declaration previously signed by the 47 political parties and independent candidates in June 2023.
The signing ceremony was facilitated by the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), a Swiss-based international organization working on peacebuilding worldwide on Friday, September 8, 2023 at the Boulevard Palace Hotel, Sinkor where two representatives of each of the parties signed the document. The ceremony was part of the one-day intensive training workshop with the National Elections Commission (NEC), Political actors, and stakeholders on social media monitoring of Farmington declaration, and youth declaration. HD Geneva based experts of Social Media and Conflict Mediation, and Digital Conflict conducted the training workshop in person.
The overall objective of the training is geared towards how to minimize social media’s impact on the elections and beyond, and provide a platform for discussions that can serve as a confidence building measure, encouraging parties to agree on relatively low-hanging fruit that can build trust and limit further incitement of violence.
Those who signed on to the document on behalf of their respective parties are Atty Alexander V.S. Saylee for the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), Rev. J. Luther Tarpeh and Amos Tweh for the Unity Party(UP), Pastor Josiah Kennedy and James P. Morris for the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) and G. Marvelous Gibson and Julu M. Johnson Jr of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia(EFFL)
The officials of the party speaking individually at the occasion thanked HD for organizing the forum and facilitating the process for the parties to recommit themselves to the Farmington River Declaration and responsible use of the media for peaceful 2023 elections and beyond.
Atty Alexander V.S. Saylee who spoke on behalf of the ruling CDC said as a governing party they were aware of their obligation to ensure that peace is maintained throughout the electoral process and beyond “because we have a tradition of being peaceful, law abiding and have shown enormous political will to the democratic process evidenced from the huge investment the government has committed to electoral process especially funding to the National Elections Commission(NEC) and other institutions connected to the elections.
For his part, Rev. J. Luther Tarpeh said the UP will do everything possible within their power to make sure that “absolute peace will be maintained before, during and after the elections and that the delegation will transmit the information to their members not to do anything to derail the electoral process”
Pastor Josiah Kennedy of the CPP said as party that subscribe to the mantra of real change, they detest any tendency or activities that will work against the Liberian people’s interest to have a free, fair and transparent election and urged his colleagues “not to sugarcoat anything at this program and engage in something entirely different after leaving the program because we all should work towards giving Liberia a new future in the ensuing general elections”
Julu M. Johnson who spoke on behalf of the EFFL said they were excited to be at the program and as “we have done before when we signed on to this document, we will continue to be committed to it to the fullest”
Earlier, the Country Director of HD Emmanuel Bawoh said over the period his institution has been deeply involved in peacebuilding in the country and has collaborated with the Ministry of Internal Affairs through the Liberia Peacebuilding Office and other relevant government institutions to ensure that Liberia’s hard fought peace will be maintained and sustained.
He said HD is working with stakeholders in the polity including the government, political parties, civil society organizations, the media among others so as to detect early warnings that could lead to conflicts before, during and after the elections and that everyone should be on board to make sure that the 2023 general elections further consolidate on the gains of the past editions for a peaceful and democratic society.
The selected political parties are said to be frequent users of social media that often impact offline behaviors of supporters.
Key clauses of the Farmington River Declaration on Campaign management include that parties should desist from campaigns that involve human rights abuse, hate speech and all forms of violence, class denigration, vilification of social origins and background, ethnic victimization or religious incitement, both by our parties or coalitions and by all agents, candidates, supporters acting in their names. Instead run issues based campaigns.
“Avoid using language at campaigns that is inflammatory, or defamatory, refrain from using language that threatens or incites violence in any form against any other political party, coalition/collaboration, alliance, person or group of persons
“Refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that our party, coalition/collaboration or alliance, any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches or use language, online or offline, that have the propensity to incite any form of violence or intimidation and human rights abuses before, during and after the elections, particularly against women and persons with disabilities
“Disseminate accurate information on electoral processes.
“Refrain from on and offline disinformation, fake news and online manipulation that will influence or polarize public opinion or promote skepticism towards the electoral process and institutions and in the end, undermine the integrity of the democratic process.
“Refrain from and discourage all forms of violence against women in elections by any of our representatives or supporters, including the use of traditional practices such as deploying the “country devil” intimidate candidates and their supporters, prevent and promptly address gender based hate speech, disinformation, misinformation, any verbal or online threats, intimidation or violence against women candidates and voters and take or initiate disciplinary action against those who contravene this pledge”, the document unveiling key clauses of the Farmington River Declaration on Social Media said.