Pres. Weah Urges PUL To Pluck Out ‘Bad Apples’ For Good Of Liberia
As special guest of the Press Union of Liberia’s 2019 Awards Night, President George Manneh Weah recommitted his government’s resolve to protect the fundamental rights of journalists.
But the President was quick to call on the Union to help cleanse the local media space by yanking out transgressors and persons using the media as a shield to propagate messages that could divide the nation and stall national progress.The PUL should adopt self-regulatory mechanisms, President Weah indicated, encouraging the umbrella media group to purge “the dangerous rise of unprofessionalism within its ranks. Do not let the bad apples to spoil the bunch.
The Union has said that the Annual Awards serve as an integral component of regulation for its members, but it has apparently been struggling to erect effective checkpoints for media institutions and practitioners who come in conflict with its Code of Conduct and general professional ethics.
In his speech at this year’s event held at the Paynesville City Hall on Friday, the Liberian leader reminded the Press Union that “there can be no better phenomenon that should judge you into action – than listening to the airwaves, reading the social media that have been inundated with high profanity, fake news, and incitement to violence.
“Journalists should seek the truth and report it, a primary rule that many of you have dutifully followed, and as a result of this, you’re receiving accolades tonight,” he said, congratulating the over 40 journalists who bagged awards in wide-ranging categories for which they applied.
He acknowledged that the press is a critical part of a fully functioning democracy and should be considered a prominent actor of the country’s political system because it holds great socio-political influence over the population that could benefit the government and the governed.
The Legislature in recent months validated and passed into law the Kamara A. Kamara Act of Press Freedom proffered by the Executive Mansion to decriminalize longstanding speech-related offenses in the government’s quest to promote freedom of expression and of the press.
Notwithstanding, President Weah said it was equally important to understand that the law does not provide immunity to journalists who violate the rights of other citizens – the law shall not prohibit citizens who feel injured from taking advantage of the court system in civil suits.
“In your efforts toward self-regulation, there should be consequences for those who act unprofessionally; those bad apples must be weeded out from your ranks because journalists are required to be responsible citizens and not exempt from the duties to abide by the laws of our country,” President Weah stressed.
In the meantime, PUL president Charles Cuffy congratulated the awardees and said that it was time the institution works harder to foster a more vibrant Liberian media.
According to Cuffy, the Union needs to have a say in the licensing of media institutions and journalists as well as granting of frequencies by the Ministry of Information and the Liberia Telecommunications Authority.
In Cuffy’s view, people or journalists have their right to the use of social media though many would misuse those platforms as there can be acts of transgression in the print and electronic media, and doers would argue that they are not members of the PUL hence they cannot heed its mandates, citing their right to associate or disassociate.
The journalists’ leader has observed that politicians and persons with their own interests are now cleverly “creeping into the media landscape, undermining high level of professionalism, and something must be done to remedy this situation,” if there should be a much more responsible media in Liberia.