22 November 2012

Liberia: Publishers Growl - 'We Will Shame, Expose Mischief Makers'

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

If anyone thinks—or had thought—that journalists are gullible and just a mere conveyer of news and information from newsmakers to readers and listeners, that person must think twice because the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) is making is crystal clear that they are humans of flesh and blood and, more so, citizens of Liberia who are also scrupulously conscious of the pains and joy of society. They came together yesterday and released a position statement that may gone a long way to not only change public perception about journalists but also sends a message to public officials and prominent state actors bend on using the media as pedestal to propagate hate, disorder and conflict that impact on national harmony, development and stability. The Analyst reports.

"Today, member institutions of PAL have come together to announce and declare that gone are the days when politicians and unscrupulous civil society 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."

Those were words of the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), a conglomerate of newspapers owners, contained in a strongly worded press statement issued yesterday in Monrovia. Owners of some broadcast media are also part of PAL.

The group said their statement comes from the backdrop of unfolding developments in the country that seem as be schemes on the part of politicians and other state actors to use the media to foment hate and disorder in the country.

The Publishers Association says it has followed with keen interest the war of words between the Executive Mansion and the National Legislature, between a member of the House of Representatives and the Board Chair of the National Oil Company as well as the General Auditing Commission saga occasioned by student demonstrations before the premises of the Commission.

More often than not, PAL observes, the media is the preferred conduit that protagonists in verbal wars and self-seeking aggressions seek to amplify their aggressions or defenses.

The Association says while it is true that the world over, the media largely feed on conflict—on controversy—between and amongst contending forces and that he Liberia media are no exception, PAL is not unaware that in Liberia, during moments of conflicts, actors in national discourses seek to draw and co-opt the media into alliance-ship against the other, attempting 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.

Henceforth, PAL says, it is not going to be a silent actor in national issues but that its members have contented to a number of steps—steps that include joint issuance of periodic position statements to address any issue or development that impacts, or have the potential to impact, negatively on national stability, peace and harmony.

The group says its members will place media blackout on individuals and groups that make reckless and unsubstantiated statements intended to cause panic, public unrest and disharmony and will also issue and publish joint editorials and commentaries denouncing violence, undemocratic tendencies and promoting national peace, harmony and stability.

The Association also declares that it will conduct routine internal investigations within its ranks and files with possible sanctions on reportages of members that compromise professionalism and objectivity.

"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," PAL says, adding: "Because members of PAL are Liberians, and more so because we are professional journalists, we are resolved to undertake a role that promotes democracy and peace rather than serve as anchors or propellers of disharmony and conflict.

"As members of PAL, determined to see our country make progress as others around us are doing, we desire not to form partnership with individuals and organizations that engage into mudslinging and unconventional tactics of settling scores. The Association believes that the current trend of acrimonious exchanges amongst state actors should not be allowed to continue since Liberians deserve better. PAL will not allow its members serve as launching pads."

The Association has however made it clear that its declared posture is no way a suggestion or guarantee that members of PAL will close their eyes and ears to critical reporting and analyses of national issues.

"Hope we are not making the impression that PAL members will be publishing news and information that pamper and cuddle newsmakers or that hide the truth. In fact, our declared positions are actually meant to strengthen our reportages that expose tyranny and bad governance," the Association maintained. "What we are going to do is to scrupulously keep watch of the line between issues and developments that promote national harmony, stability and democracy on the one hand and issues and developments that tend to cause conflict and disharmony on the other."

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