22 November 2012

Liberia: Publishers Threaten Blackout

Photo: IRIN
Liberians scan the newspapers for post-election analysis.

The Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) has issued a strongly worded statement against current trend of acrimonious exchanges amongst state actors in the country.

These developments, particularly those between and amongst prominent state actors, have characteristically drawn support and dissent of various segments of the public, thus creating a conflagration that has impact on national harmony and unity.

PAL threatened that it would place media blackout on individuals and groups that make reckless and unsubstantiated statements intended to cause panic, public unrest and disharmony.

In a position statement issued Wednesday and signed by members of the Publishers Association, PAL says the aforementioned declarations are in acknowledgement of the fact that Liberia's peace and democracy are nascent and fragile and that the media can play a role that can either sustain the peace or backpedal the nation to conflict.

The Association indicated that because members of PAL are Liberians, and more so because they are professional journalists, they are resolved to undertake a role that promotes democracy and peace rather than serve as anchors or propellers of disharmony and conflict.

More often than not, the media is the preferred conduit that protagonists in these kinds of verbal wars seek to amplify their aggressions or defenses. It is true that the world over, the media largely feed conflict - on controversy - between and amongst contending forces. The Liberian media are no exception.

"But we are not unaware that in this country, during moments of conflicts, actors in national discourses seek to draw and co-pt the media into alliance-ship against the other; they attempt to mislead the media with all kinds of machinations, using pseudo groups who issue tramped up press releases to support their cause and denigrate opponents". PAL statement said.

In recent times, the Publishers Association said it has seen the manifestation of these schemes, and are resolved to expose and shame those who think they can abuse the media or use the media to ferment hate and disorder in the country.

"Today, member institutions of the PAL have come together to denounce and declare that gone are the days when politicians and unscrupulous civil organizations and individuals used the media not only to settle scores with each other but also to create unnecessary tensions and strains on the country's already fragile peace and democracy", the group said.

The publishers said they will issue/publish joint editorials and commentaries denouncing violence, undemocratic tendencies and promoting national peace, harmony and stability; and conduct routine internal investigations with possible sanctions on reportages of PAL members that compromise professionalism and objectivity" the PAL statement said.

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