Amid simmering row between the Liberian government and the independent media, the Press Union Liberia that unleashed an indefinite suspension sentence upon an honorable member, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe for reportedly besmirching the Union “useless”, summersaulted by withdrawing its reprimand against the Minister in less than two weeks not without any post-condition. Just as some journalists criticized the action when it was taken for being “without due process” so yet others have expressed disgust for, amongst other things, lifting of the punishment without first insisting that the Minister meet the pre-condition of withdrawing the statement—going at the very radio station where he made it. Controversially, the Union instead of looking at its defaulted action is now contending to host a congress to review the qualification of members, questioning the motive of reviewing membership statuses in the Union’s constitution in the wake of the Nagbe fracas. Critics have opined that the call by the union for congress apparently suggests that the Union agrees to Minister Nagbe’s comments made against the Union during the talk show which led him described the PUL as ‘useless’. The Analyst flips through the Union’s confusing and controversial recourse.
The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has announced the lifting of the suspension of the membership of Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe from the organization. The PUL insists that having being purged of the suspension punishment, he can now proceed to announce the apology on a radio station.
According to a PUL release, the decision was made at a mass meeting held on Friday, January 4, 2019, where the membership present accepted the Minister’s apology. The Union has however insisted that the Minister Nagbe is to use the same medium, the radio station, in which he made the unfortunate comment against the Union to broadcast the apology and same be placed on the PUL website.
Nagbe’s branding of the Union as “useless” provoked outrage in many quarters but there were some citizens, including journalists, who thought the Information Minister was punished without due process as required by the Union’s Constitution. Others said the Union’s action demonstrated intolerance to critical views.
The PUL said Minister Nagbe’s apology letter intimated that “Just as I did following my comments about the Union during a recent talk show which sparked uproar, and subsequently during our meeting today, December 31, 2018, I withdraw said comments and re-emphasize my strong belief that the Union has a pivotal role to play in Liberia”.
The Union said Minister Nagbe reaffirmed the importance of the government and the Press Union working continuously toward holding professionals thoroughly accountable to the ethical & professional standards of journalism as enshrined in the Code of Conduct for Journalists practicing in Liberia.
Nagbe’s suspension was prompted by the Information Minister branding of the PUL as a “useless” entity during a Christmas Day appearance on Farbric FM 101.1 MHz in Monrovia after the Union had alerted increasing hostilities against the media in Liberia from some officials of the Weah Administration.
Press Union of Liberia President, Charles B. Coffey, Jr.: After Friday’s mass meeting through, we are now empowered to end the suspension of the membership of Hon. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Information Minister of the Republic of Liberia, as mandated by the membership of the PUL.
“It is with regrets that we had to call into action one of the toughest reprimands within the powers of the Press Union of Liberia. Our decisions have never been political but a professional call to attention intended to enforce and uphold the high standards, journalists and members of PUL subscribed to when they signed up for membership.
“We hope that Minister Nagbe going forward will be an effective and resourceful ambassador of the Journalism Community in seeking actively to work for the enabling of the operating environment of media in Liberia.”
In a press release announcing the lifting of suspension of Mr. Nagbe, the PUL also announced that the membership of the Press Union of Liberia has mandated the Leadership of the Union to organize an extraordinary congress to review the constitution of the PUL, specifically on the standards/requirements for being a member.
There are members of the public who have been reacting to the PUL’s reprieve over Minister Nagbe, argue that it was needless for the Union to have lifted the punishment without first going to the radio station to air the broadcast of his apology.
“In as much as the Minister wrote a letter of apology, the PUL needed to accept it as it is without requesting additional punishment,” said a talk show discussant over the weekend.
“Or if the PUL thought going to broadcast the apology was important, there was no need to lift the suspension until the broadcast was done. These mixed signals on the part of the union are leading one to think otherwise about how things are run at the Union,” another critic said.
There are others who are questioning the motive of reviewing membership statuses in the Union’s constitution over the fracas with Minister Nagbe. While some critics contend that the Union had sat without being circumspect about its membership entitlements provisions for years, its call for a congress at this time to discuss the membership qualification and entitlement also speaks volume and leaves much to desire.
“Why at this time? Does it then mean the Union was actually not up to obligation and stature as insinuated by the Minister?” posited another talk show discussant who was sounding furious that the union was subjecting itself to radical reordering only after it was reportedly insulted by one of its members.