15 January 2013

Liberia: Independent Newspaper Apologies to Nigerian Ambassador

The Press Union of Liberia has acknowledged the apology by the Independent Newspaper to the Nigerian Ambassador accredited near Monrovia. The Media Complaints Committee found The Independent Newspaper guilty of ethical breach and requested an apology in a complaint filed by the Ministry of Information on behalf of the Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia against a report carried in the December 17, 2012 edition of the Paper.

Ambassador Chigozie F. Obi-Nnadozie accused The Independent of "wrongful and damaging" publication in its banner headline "Nigerian Envoy Accused of Theft?" which she said was "very damaging to the reputation of the Nigerian Embassy and the her person."

After a hearing consistent with due process and the rules of the Union, the committee found the paper in violation of Article 11 of the Code of Conduct.

The committee noted that The Independent Newspaper quoted multiple sources in the story including the Ambassador herself, but the headline did not warrant the contents of the story - and therefore adjudged misleading.

The story concerns a contract between the Nigerian Embassy and a local construction company hired to do repairs on the residence of the Ambassador at the cost of 6,000 USD. According to the complaint, the Contractor, Fat Boy LANK Inc. collected 5,200.00USD of the amount and abandoned the work after failing to perform in line with the agreement.

The committee held that the Ambassador would not have been guilty of "theft" as reported by the paper after disbursing US$5,200 to the contractor, and therefore requested the Independent to publish an apology to the Nigerian Ambassador.

The self-regulatory body of the PUL warned that nobody, regardless of their position in society, should suffer on account of undue sensational reporting of a story by the media.

The Media Complaints Committee has meanwhile renewed calls on all media practitioners to exercise due caution, when reporting issues that will impact the reputation of others during all stages of their journalistic functions.

The committee also welcomed the participation of the government and the Paper at the highest level in the resolution of this matter, noting that "it is better to use mediation to resolve issues between the media and members of the community. This provides better opportunities to promote media freedom."

The meeting was attended by the Publisher of the Independent Newspaper Sam O. Dean and Atty. Isaac Jackson, Deputy Minister of Information for Public Affairs and Chief of Protocol Elijah Seah, representing the interest of the Nigerian Ambassador.

The MCC is a multi stakeholders' self-regulatory committee set up by the PUL to promote media freedom and professionalism in Liberia. Membership to the committee includes the media, the Bar Association, the Government, Civil Society, and Women groups.

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