The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has a new leadership. The camp of Charles B. Coffey, director of television at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), overwhelmingly defeated the ——year administration of Kamara Abdullai Kamara (KAK) at the PUL’s third elective congress held in Ganta, Nimba County over the weekend.
Mr. Coffey defeated the incumbent KAK, 152 to 100 votes, while his vice presidential candidate, Octavin Williams overwhelmed Jallah Grayfield by 109 to 90 votes, leaving Omicee Johnson, who also contested for the vice presidential post, with 46 votes.
Daniel Nyankonah was elected unopposed as secretary general of the union, while Dyrus Zinnah, ELBC reporter, defeated former Daily Observer and Frontpage Africa reporter David Kolleh and the News Director of Prime FM, Jutonu Kollie, with 105, 75 and 72 votes respectively.
The Annual Congress brought together 254 registered voters, a low turnout of the membership of 459 journalists.
Some of the veteran journalists told this newspaper shortly after the results of Saturday’s election were announced that Coffey’s election is unprecedented and historic since he convincingly defeated the incumbent in a free, fair and transparent process of voting characterized by friendliness.
In 2013, Mr. Kamara narrowly defeated Mr. Coffey by a four-vote margin at the PUL’s 2nd Elective Congress held on Clay Street, Monrovia.
President-elect Coffey, 46, holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Liberia. At present, he is pursuing another Master’s degree in education from the same university.
The PUL elections were supervised by Aaron Kollie, proprietor and manager of Power FM.
Other members of the PUL’s Election Commission included Anthony Selma, Tetee Kanneh, James Sao, and Siata Johnson. Hassan Kiawu and Jarlawah Tonpoe were technical members of the Commission.
New Code of Ethics Endorsed
As part of the activities of the Congress, journalists overwhelmingly endorsed the new Code of Ethics for Liberian Journalists including the Operational Strategy.
The 14-Article Code of Ethics is aimed at encouraging journalists to uphold the highest measure of ethical standards, professional competence and good behavior in the performance of their duties.
It also sets minimum benchmarks for ethical standards and protecting the rights of the journalist and the public.
The Operation Strategy regulates and manages the Code of Conduct, which includes the National Media Council (NMC) that would be established, thereby repealing the Grievance and Ethics Committee of the PUL.
The responsibility of the NMC is to guarantee compliance with the Code of Ethics through contents in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and on the internet; respect of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of information; and to only adapt those measures that are proportionate and necessary to redress violations of the Code.
The composition of the NMC includes three representatives from the media, one from the Legislature, one from civil society, two from religious groups and one each from academia and women’s groups.
Members of the NMC hold office for a two-year term.
Rejected Finance Reports
Meanwhile, members of the PUL Congress in Ganta rejected the financial report from outgoing President Kamara’s camp for the second time in two years. Journalists believe that the report lacked “comprehension and methodical reporting.”
The three-year report (2014 – 2016), with the total expenditure of US$257,838.62, was sent back to the Kamara-led leadership until it is properly structured on or before December 18.
The bank (unnamed) balance at the end of the three years is only US$484.79.
Constitution Amended Postponed
Prior to the elections, the PUL Congress postponed changes to the Constitution, specifically Article 4 Section IV, which says “Public Relations Officers/Managers who were full members of the Union as of coming into force of this Constitution shall continue to remain full members of the Union. They shall vote, but not be voted for.”
Reports gathered say reporters (especially active ones) are considering to vote for the amendment to the Constitution for full membership status to only be given to “active journalists,” while Public Relations Officers/Managers will be associate members, and should not have the “authority to either vote or be voted for.”
The new leadership of PUL is expected to announce the date and venue of the extraordinary Congress to amend the Constitution.
The PUL was founded September 30, 1964 as a regulatory group for practicing journalists and public relations officers.
From 1964 to 2010, the tenure for the leadership was two years but was amended to three years in 2013.
The leadership structure of the PUL comprises elective and appointed positions.
The elective module comprises the president, vice president, secretary general and assistant secretary general. The appointed component includes the accountant and several committee members.