MONROVIA: The Press Union of Liberia (PUL), in its July 26 Independence Day Message to the nation, has enjoined media practitioners to reflect on the cardinal role that the media has played in nation building, and forge unity among themselves especially as the country goes through a crucial national election. “Despite our differences, we must collaborate to ensure the safety and protection of journalists during this critical period. Only by working together can we uphold the principles of a free and responsible press,” the PUL noted.
Reflecting on the historical development of the Liberian media landscape, which is one of resilience and transformation, the PUL traced media development from its humble beginnings with The Herald Newspaper to the challenges of the modern era, wherein the media has continuously evolved and adapted to the nation’s changing landscape.
“As we celebrate our Independence Day, let us remember the power of journalism in shaping our society and pledge to overcome present challenges through unity and dedication.
“Over two centuries ago, journalism found its roots in the nascent colony of Liberia with the establishment of its first newspaper, The Herald, in 1826. Founded by the legendary Charles Force, this paper played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s identity and providing a platform for early Liberian society to voice their aspirations for independence and self-governance. However, Charles Force’s untimely demise soon after the publication of the first issue marked the beginning of a long and transformative journey for journalism in Liberia.
“Throughout Liberia’s formation, journalism served as a vital instrument in promoting the cause of independence. Journalists were at the forefront, eloquently articulating the nation’s quest for political rights and freedom for all its people. Despite facing strict censorship during the early years, these valiant storytellers managed to unveil the silence that engulfed Liberia, demanding rights and equal representation. The persistent efforts of our ancestors eventually led to the achievement of universal suffrage and the abolition of property ownership as a voting requirement.
“However, as the nation progressed, the media landscape became increasingly divided, mirroring the fragmentation within the country. The 1980s saw polarization in the media, with some outlets fervently supporting the Samuel K. Doe regime, while others took an opposing stance and aligned with the opposition. Amidst this divisive climate, information provided by independent media was often seen as credible, though sometimes tainted with propagandistic intrigues.
“The dark period of the civil wars in Liberia further intensified the divisions within the media. As the nation endured devastation, the media’s disunity inadvertently contributed to the turmoil, perpetuating conflict and hindering national healing. The turn of the millennium marked a new era, presenting fresh challenges to the media landscape. Political influence over the media, the rise of social media and television, efforts to enhance reporters’ capacities, financial struggles, and outdated media laws all posed significant obstacles to the sector’s performance.
“As we commemorate the 176th Independence of Liberia, it is imperative that we reflect on the role journalism has played in building the nation and where it is headed. The approaching national elections demand unity among media practitioners. Despite our differences, we must collaborate to ensure the safety and protection of journalists during this critical period. Only by working together can we uphold the principles of a free and responsible press.
“In conclusion, the history of journalism in Liberia is one of resilience and transformation. From its humble beginnings with The Herald to the challenges of the modern era, the media has continuously evolved and adapted to the nation’s changing landscape. As we celebrate our Independence Day, let us remember the power of journalism in shaping our society and pledge to overcome present challenges through unity and dedication,” the PUL July 26 message indicated.