Monrovia — At least 15 Liberian journalists representing electronic and print media houses have converged in Monrovia to undergo a five-month mentoring program aimed at combating COVID-19 related misinformation and other forms of human rights violations in the country, especially during the course of the fight against the pandemic.
The initiative is under the auspices of the "Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 (MMFC) project" initiated by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a Canada-based charity organization.
JHR and its sponsors believe that trusted local journalists can play a critical role in communicating accurate public health measures and in combating what is now known as infodemic of misinformation--a thought that gave birth to the project.
The launch of the project, which officially took place on Thursday, May 6 in Monrovia, will have the story ideas of journalists selected through a Call for Pitches from across the country while liaising with two media trainers with knowledge on human rights reporting, gender sensitive writing, fact-checking among others. The two trainers had received initial trainings from JHR mentors based in South Africa and Kenya.
The two Mentors for the project are William Q. Harmon of the Daily Observer Newspaper and Gerald C. Koinyeneh of FrontPage Africa with Gloria T. Tamba of Spoon FM/TV, who is out of the country, contributing to the initiative from afar.
Speaking at the opening of the three-day training exercise, the president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey said that there are a lot of human rights abuses ongoing in the country, especially through attacks, harassments, intimidations and coercions by powerful people.
Mr. Coffey noted that powerful people in the society do a lot to abuse the masses.
"If you were to go places across this country, especially towns and villages in our rural areas, you will identify countless human rights abuses," he said, adding, "But let it be established here that as media practitioners, you will be unable to identify those abuses if you do not have the requisite training that would serve as an opener or guide for you. We all need to know what human rights are and what constitutes the abuse of those rights."
He continued: "This is why this training is so much important. We want to appreciate the JHR and her collaborating partners for initiating such a program. This will be of great help to our journalists in particular and the society in general."
The PUL president stated that the media is the watchdog and it most watch over everything, especially how the country's resources are used to benefit the people
Though political issues are the concentration of most journalists and media houses, he said there should be some shift or consideration in looking at human rights abuses across the country.
"If a community lacks safe drinking water and there are funds allotted in the national budget for such a purpose but nothing is being done and those residents are constrained to fetch water from the creeks and rivers to drink... then their rights are being violated. We need to pursue these kinds of stories and bring them to light. Our people deserve better," he said.