MONROVIA: A workshop for the review and adoption of the media code of conduct for elections reporting for the ensuing 2023 general elections kicked off in the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, with stakeholders, including officials of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the United Nations Development Program(UNDP) and a number of journalists drawn from a number of media institutions making clarion calls for accurate and professional reporting as the nation gears towards the decisive October 10, 2023 general elections.
In his introductory note for the program, the Director of Communications of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Henry Flomo stressed the need for accurate and balanced reporting of events surrounding the election as it is crucial to the integrity of the election and the survival of the country. He said the program was mainly organized to review and adopt the media code that will govern the media coverage of the entire election as well as exploring suggestions where the media and NEC can work together for the smooth operations towards the holding of a free and fair general election.
Flomo further said NEC has also worked with political parties and the Civil Society organizations to draft, review and adopt their version of the code of conduct that will govern the institutions during the electoral period.
“We cannot overemphasize the importance of the media in these elections especially now that the social media has been on the increase, making the role very critical to our own setting. The traditional media too has not sat back as they have been keeping pace with the changes in the media space.
“The traditional media has also been tapping into social media and so they have gone as far as engaging in social media activities. So we call on the traditional media or the media industry in general to ensure that we have the reports that can be verified and substantiated”, M r. Flomo said.
Speaking on behalf of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Madam Satta Johnson, thanked NEC and its partner, the United Nations Development Program(UNDP) for organizing the program with the view of forging a greater bond and understanding between the two institutions and the media community in Liberia. She challenged the participants to take full advantage of the program and make useful input in the media code and conduct.
Also speaking at the occasion, the Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Madam Christiana Winnie Saywah-Jimmy, said she was excited to see the media is been regarded as a strategic partner to the electoral process, stating that such a relationship will positively impact on how the media will be brought in the mainstream of national issues, like the ensuing general elections. She said it was important for the stakeholders to discuss national issues with the media playing a key role in the process.
Mr. Malcolm Joseph, the Executive Director of the Center for media studies and peace, speaking later thanked NEC and the UNDP for organizing the program and said his institution has been deeply involved in crafting the code of conduct for the media which is up for review and adoption. He told the participants, especially the media practitioners to properly take a deeper look at the draft code of conduct for the media and adopt the right component of the document that will make the media play its decisive role during the general elections.
The first paper of the day came from Atty Nathan Garbie, Deputy Director for Programs at NEC who spoke on the constitutional basis for the establishment of NEC and all the powers given to the institution to function and discharge its electoral responsibility as provided for in the approved 1986 National Elections Commission (NEC).
He said like the Civil Service Commission and the General Auditing Commission, these three countries are expressly mentioned in the constitution because only three of them were actually established through the constitution and autonomous to carry out their functions.
Atty Garbie said so far things are moving fine with the commission as it contemplates on the holding of free and fair elections this year just as he called on the media and members of the civil society to flag up some of the things that are clear violations of the election laws of the country as well as the functions for which NEC was established.
“That is the reason we are involving you in the process. You should take advantage of the law and try to challenge some of the things which you feel are in clear violation of the constitution and the laws of the land.
“If you do that then you not helping us, but you are also helping yourself and the country”, Atty Garbie said.
Speaking on the second paper, “Signs and dangers of misinformation, disinformation , maladministration and hate speech, Cllr. Aagon Togba said the ever expanding way the social media has emerged, has come with a huge challenge of monitoring the platform and setting up mechanisms to curtail some of the activities of the social media.
He said misinformation, disinformation, mal-information and hate speech constitute a serious threat to Liberian fledgling democracy, asserting that as the country moves towards the general election, the adverse side of social media will be rampant and could pose serious threats to the electoral period.
A topic exclusively on women, titled, “Gender responsive reporting on women in politics” was handled by Madam Ruth Barchue who lamented the negative publicity and stigmatization or stereotyping of females who intend going into politics go through that have contributed to low number of female contesting for position and which also lead to issues relating to women not being discussed at decisions making tables.
She called on the media to be gender sensitive and friendly going to the general elections by giving them the platform to express themselves as well as encouraging the females to strive above any limits or barriers that may have been erected against them.
The workshop will end on Wednesday of this week at which time the participants are expected to review and adopt the code of conduct for the media institution during the general elections.