opinionBy Coleman J. Payne
The metamorphic arguments relating to statements made by the head of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) Hon. Daniel Othello Warrick, on May 3, 2013 during the observance of the Press Freedom Day in Grand Bassa County, and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) subsequent response to such, as well as criticisms from Liberians have drawn my attention to comment. Critically speaking, the statements made by Hon. Warrick was appropriate , giving the fact that media institutions have miserably failed to maintain ethical standards and credibility in the process of journalism.
Hon. Warrick aptly put it, "If journalists incriminate the character or integrity of Liberians, like myself, we will run after you. He further added that, "if journalists intrude into the presidential convoy, we will not tolerate that". But he didn't mention in his statements that, "You have your pen and we have our gun". Realistically, no one person in Liberia can produce such a recording to that effect.
We agree that media benefit from unique constitutional protections that prevent the government from constraining or censoring the news. For examples, the Table Mounting Declaration signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in South Africa, the passage of the Information Act, etc. Such freedom, however, carries a price. Media institutions can be sued for inaccuracies that damage people's lives, as well as for invading people's privacy without compelling reason to do so. Moreover, journalists have been reporting fallacies and fabricated lies against government officials, peaceful citizens, foreign nationals, and even the president without further public outcry. Here are some of the instances: Ambassador George Weah naked picture was published in all newspapers, Mr. Willie Nauker's sex scandal picture was also published, Mr. Robert Sirleaf was falsely accused of same sex and stealing of US$ 2bn, President Sirleaf's trips are being announced without official statement from the Executive Mansion, etc. And, of course, journalists are moving through the corridors seeking for monies than accurate news.
In addition, our journalists have been noted for intruding on someone's privacy inappropriately or secretly. This would include entering private property without permission, eavesdropping, surveillance, using a telephoto lens to take photos or video, and harassments. If a minister is walking on the street and pauses in front of an X-rated movie theater as a photographer for a local television of the theater, the minister could sue if the footage were aired.
These are some unethical practices being carried out by journalists, causing several problems with Liberians, especially the security sector.
Predicated upon these mounting inaccuracies in media reporting, which have the propensity to undermine our peace and security, Hon. Warrick was very realistic to reveal the truth. A Revolutionist Khaled Hosseini said, "It is better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with lie".
I have been fortunate in monitoring various Television stations, radio stations and the internet, it is very frustrating to hear and see Liberians, including journalists insulting and dogmatically criticizing Hon. Warrick's statements without asking themselves these questions: Who is Daniel Othello Warrick? Was he part of Liberia's 14 years of brutal political crisis? Had he been accused for corruption or any act of dishonesty against our country? Now, questions to the media: What has been the positive role media institutions play in Liberia's democracy or peace building process, especially past elections? Had media institutions been errors free in their reporting and editorials? Had the media been free of corruption and blackmailing government officials and peaceful citizens?
Yes! We need more answers to these questions before attacking and falsely criticizing Hon. Warrick, a very peaceful citizen, whose records are clean and traceable in Liberia's history.
To end at this point, unfortunately to say that Liberians including journalists are not sincerely doing justice to our emerging democracy. Many of us have failed to do what are necessary in strengthening our peace and security. Today, our media organizations have been pocketed and sold to policy makers in our country. Our journalists have failed to cover stories, such as statistics relating to underemployed, unemployment, heath care, education, same sex (gay), companies operating in the country and those top positions occupied by Liberians, etc. But nearly all headlines of newspapers are politics. We (Liberians) also continue to elect people into public offices who committed heinous crimes and catastrophic in our country, like Senator Prince Y. Johnson who came 3rd in the 2011 general and presidential elections. Let us leave Hon. Warrick alone because all of us have done wrong to justice, and we need not to portray ourselves excellently honest. It is about time that the Press Union of Liberia stop placing blackout on the president and further arguments and see reason to reestablish position that will full of public trust only with long thought, careful work, clear standards and renewed sense of what is fair. As it is said, "Changes are brought by changed men who themselves are changed in the process of changing society".