21 November 2012

Liberia: Taking Advantage of Media Defense Training

ON TUESDAY FORTY radio, television and newspaper editors began a three-day media law and ethics training in Monrovia under the auspices of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).

THE TRAINING IS designed to enlighten editors about defamation law and prepare them to exercise caution against falsehood as part of a one year "Media Defense and Safety of Journalists Project" sponsored by UNESCO. According to the PUL, the training is a testimonial in the Union's strategic vision for the defense of journalists, as it seeks to further enhance and entrench its position on ethical journalism in Liberia.

THE PUL NOTED that the project will also allow the PUL to contribute meaningfully towards creating legal consciousness among journalists and editors in an effort to develop a freer press in Liberia, in the wake of the increase in the number of lawsuits and complaints against the Media. While describing most of the recent cases as "intimidating suits" intended to scare the media, PUL President Peter Quaqua agreed that some of the suits are rightly justified, because "Some journalists are guilty of the willful disregard of the truth and failure to apply due diligence in their work."

MR. QUAQUA HOWEVER warned that "any kind of law suit against the media is a potential threat to our desire for press freedom. Hence, the media must act as a collective guarantor of its own defense and safety through ethical initiatives and self regulation." The three-day event will also formalize the establishment of a legal defence team to make representation for journalists and media houses in court, reorganize the Editors' Guild and a monthly editors' meeting or forum to do a critical self-assessment and networking on ethical challenges in the newsroom with the hope of strengthening the Union's self regulatory regime.

IT'S ABOUT TIME that media practitioners especially editors who are gate-keepers in the newsroom take advantage of this all important training not only to safe guide against law suits but to put aside falsehood which is a catalyst that ruins the reputation of journalists and bring this noble profession to public ridicule. If we must be ethical and be true professional journalists we should then write only those things that are nothing but the truth as it is only the truth that breeds credibility and makes the society know that a journalist is truly a professional whose intention is to provide truthful information to the public.

IT IS A known fact that most newspapers have law suits hanging over them because they failed to adhere to ethical standards which border on Accuracy, Balance and Clarity, the ABC of the profession. It is our hope that this training will help in projecting the profession as one that is truly public-centered, and as such must print or broadcast only the truth. If we must go to court for a story that was published or broadcast, it must be proven that it was only the truth and not based on falsehood.

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