Media Stakeholders Hands off PUL Mediation

MONROVIA – Efforts to amicably mediate in the ongoing post election saga within the Press Union of Liberia must have hit the rock over the weekend when the Independent Media Committee appointed by the President of the media fraternity, Charles Coffey in the wake of the controversies surrounded the entire electoral process decided to back out from the exercise citing reasons that the case is already in court and that any solutions provided by the committee will have no binding effect.

In a press release from the committee December 9, 2022 a copy of which was sent to The Analyst, the committee through its Chairperson, Weade Kobbah-Boley said from its emergency meeting, it affirmed that while it remains open to help resolve the current impasse/stalemate within the PUL, it cannot proceed any further because the issue is in court.

“On December 2, 2022, the Presiding Justice in Chambers of the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Yusuf Kabba mandated the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Gbarnga, Bong County to resume jurisdiction over the matter. The Committee maintains that it is not a parallel and any action of the committee that centers on mediation and arbitration will have no binding effect over the litigation process”, the committee said

The committee while taking  the decision also lamented  the manner in which Coffey appointed them without any clearly defined terms of reference (TOR) on the nature and scope of its work and regretted  that its constitution was restricted to a press release without any formal   communication to its members that has constrained its work.

 It said the action on the part of Coffey was most likely intended to buy time and undermine the work of the committee, a situation that complicates the matter further.

 The Committee warned that at a time Liberia is poised for national elections, the PUL must resist all forms of external interference in its activities as a credible civil society watchdog institution, dedicated to promoting media freedom, justice, democracy and the rule of law. It further stated that it is disturbed that the current wrangling within PUL has serious ramifications to Liberia’s democratic processes that could undermine moral standing of the PUL as a watchdog  organization, dedicated to monitoring ills and shortcomings in society.

“The committee is of the view that the matter at hand is by no means trivial, for it is a battle for integrity, the very soul of our beloved and esteemed fraternity of journalists, the Press Union of Liberia.

“We must consider wisely the gravity of what is at stake and determine what is best for the union and the extent to which we are willing to go to protect and defend it.

“There should be a clear distinction between our personal grievances and the issues in the elections that threaten the function and purpose of the Press Union of Liberia.

“The committee cannot help but view the matter at hand as a microcosm of the potential disputes that may arise in the upcoming election year on a national scale”, the release said.

While stating that it is willing to engage in finding an amicable negotiation to the PUL saga to uphold the integrity of the organization, it however suggested that the both parties submit to the litigation process.

“The Committee wishes to extend its appreciation to Coffey for its preferment and hopes the outgoing leadership will act urgently in engaging all stakeholders for speedy resolution of the conflict to restore peace, unity and harmony in the PUL”, the statement concluded.

PUL Reacts

 Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia in a Saturday, December 11, 2022 press release welcomed the decision of the Media Stakeholders Committee to disengage from efforts seeking a resolution to the election impasse within the Union, noting that the disengagement is prudent to allow the law take its course in these ongoing electoral disputes.

“The Union has applauded the Committee for such a salient initiative and has assured the public that the case will reach its logical conclusion in the court of law,” the PUL stated.

But in reference to the IMSC claim of the outgoing PUL president undermining the works of the committee that he constituted to mediate, the PUL dismissed such assertion, terming it a complete misrepresentation of the facts associated with the case. 

“The Leadership of the Union wonders how the President can undercut the activities of the committee, at the same time not providing a term of reference for it,” the PUL disclosed in its release.

 The Union furthered that the Independent Media Stakeholders Committee held meetings in the one week stipulated by Associate Justice Yousif Kaba to reconcile the Union but failed to bring both parties together.

“The Committee was also charged to bring the parties in the election disputes and the congress committee to a settlement but it only interviewed lawyers of both parties.  

“The Committee also did not communicate with the Union, nor the Justice-in-Chambers, on the need for an extension of the one week to allow the mediation to continue.

“President Coffey asserted that Madam Boley more than once phoned him to give edicts on the state of the mediation.  

“Mr. Coffey mentioned that the failure of the committee to achieve the desired peace mediation prompted the seizure of the matter by the Justice in Chambers.

“The Leadership of the Union regards the blame-shifting of the committee on Mr. Coffey as unhealthy and counterproductive to the spirit of the Union.

“The Union sees the press statement signed only by Mrs. Boley as a conspiracy intended to pin down the Union’s genuine efforts aimed at bringing the election impasse to an end,” the release signed by PUL Secretary General Musa MB Kenneh stated.

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