The Publishers Association of Liberia has followed with keen interest recent developments taking place in the country. These developments include 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. Also, there is the General Auditing Commission saga, a situation occasioned by student demonstrations before the premises of the Commission.
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.
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 on conflict—on controversy—between and amongst contending forces. The Liberia 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-opt 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.
In recent times, the Publishers Association of Liberia has seen the manifestations of these schemes, and we are resolved to expose and shame those who think they can abuse the media or use the media to foment hate and disorder in the country.
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.
In pursuit of that goal, the Publishers Association of Liberia has with immediate effect made the following declarations:
· Jointly issue periodic position statements to address any issue or development that impacts, or have the potential to impact, negatively on national stability, peace and harmony;
· Place media blackout on individuals and groups that make reckless and unsubstantiated statements intended to cause panic, public unrest and disharmony;
· 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 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.
Thus, 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. And PAL will not allow its members serve as launching pads.
We would however want to make it clear that our 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.
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.
James G. Kiazolu
SECRETARY GENERAL, PAL