Monrovia — AS LIBERIAN JOURNALISTS gather in the port city of Buchanan in the second week of November, there are early worries about the fate of media freedom and free expression in the country. The nation is watching to see if the principal product of the Congress, the emergence of a new leadership of the Union for the next three years, will come out and seen to uphold or compromise the key ideal and motivation that drove the formation of the Union after all. These worries are justified since the Union stands out in Liberia's strive for greater democracy and freedom in the face of unsavory governance nemeses. Today the Press Union is widely regarded and respected to be a critical surviving voice checkmating political excesses. Any drift from this modus operandi not only risks free expression and media freedom which the PUL was established to protect and defend, but also jeopardizes the Liberian political space that is still hungering for liberalness and good governance.
PRESIDENT PETER QUAQUA and his team, to some reasonable extent, measured up to the challenges the media have faced; with the help of national and international partners providing training and advocacy supports to journalists and member organizations. The Quaqua team was all out in the rain and in the sun standing by media organs and journalists preyed upon by powerful political forces. Beyond the media community, the Quaqua leadership joined other pro-democracy and pro-freedom stakeholders to raise a voice against traces of governance excesses. At the end of the second week in November, the team will ground arms to a new leadership that members of the Union are expected to elect.
IN THE RING of contestation for the PUL leadership, names are surfacing, most of them familiar; and certainly with the small membership size, social and other relationships and other connections will no doubt drive voters' preferences for the leadership. As natural and ordinary this proposition is, picking the next PUL leadership in light of current unsavory political environment as well as ensuing potentially risky events—with direct and indirect impact on journalists and generally on free speech and media freedom—it would be highly regrettable and equally risky if next month's PUL congressionalists based their electoral judgment on familial and social connections rather on character and competence that march to traditional ideal of the Union.
LIBERIAN JOURNALISTS, LIKE any group of professionals, have their own diversity in terms of social, economic and political preferences if not ideologies. We may have our own dints, nuisances and internal wrangling here and there. But our common denominator is total unfettered environment of freedom and liberty to operationalize whatever the diversity we carry in our heads. The citadel of that environment is not just the frame of the PUL; it is mainly the undaunted spirit, trait and fortitude of men and women placed in its echelon to demand, fight for and maintain that environment.
NEARLY TWO WEEKS ahead, we just thought to send that reminder so that before the euphoria of contestation consumes the conscience of good judgment, the foundation of sobriety would have been established and the right corps of leaders chosen. Those who have ears…!