Vice President Joseph Boakai has challenged Liberian media practitioners to respect their profession by strengthening their ethics; thereby, doing away with “yellow journalism.”
VP Boakai made the statement Thursday, April 24, when he served as guest speaker at a colorful event that marked the 25th anniversary celebration of the News Newspaper, which was held at the Monrovia City Hall.
Ambassador Boakai challenged the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to be responsive to the law and become vigilant in enforcing the rules and regulations that govern the practice of journalism in the country.
He said the union and other constituent member organizations should reciprocate by focusing energy on revitalizing the profession, making it more attractive and honorable.
“This will be possible if ethical standards are clearly defined, streamlined and strictly adhered to. Media practitioners should not forget that the press depends on the rest of society as much as the rest of society counts heavily on the press,” the Vice President said.
He further that when journalists get into the habit of manufacturing stories that carry terrifying messages in an urge to sell more papers, it becomes harmful to their institutions and country.
“We need to understand that, normally, 75 percent of your income as a newspaper actually comes from advertising. Paper sales and other activities should account for the remaining 25 percent. We should, therefore, be wary of sensationalism as well as unhealthy competition, which uses manipulation to gain unfair advantage over others,” he noted.
He said freedom of speech is a fundamental human right but comes with responsibilities, adding that there are rules that everyone should follow. The VP said when these rules are breached; people should not expect to escape being disciplined or falling from grace.
“Like the Liberia National Bar Association, the PUL should allow nothing out of the ordinary preventing the organization from pursuing extensive measures against those who violate the cannons of journalism
Above all else, the union needs to bear in mind that it must test show true commitment to the adherence of rules. Merely lobbing demands at others to live by their rules cannot pass for adequate evidence of a true commitment. Always strive to be the example of what you speak,” the Vice President declared.
He commended the role of the PUL as it engages several local and international organizations, including the International Federation of Journalists, the West Africa Journalist Association, the Committee to protect Journalists and the United Kingdom-based International Alert among others.
“Every society has its own culture, whether in diplomacy, international relations, politics, or other ways in dealing with issues, be they within or outside its borders; I believe the media in Liberia is no exception.
There certainly must be a media culture that is unique to Liberia, even with her recognition of international norms of practice. Part of this culture is to practice journalism that will promote stability and development. I believe the best journalism for Liberia is Development Journalism as we are a third world country striving to get out of devastating circumstances. The nation is still stuck in a state of underdevelopment. We need to create jobs. We need to attract investors. Fermenting partisan and divisive journalism can only serve to keep us down,” the Vice President lamented.
The Vice President assured that the government will remain conscious of its responsibility to ensure that the media is protected against unwarranted and illegal action. “Government should not tilt toward muzzling the press,” he added.
According to him, it was against that backdrop that the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government has created “the most acceptable and the freest environment this nation has ever seen. It is due to our commitment to enhance the dissemination of the truth that this government enacted the Freedom of Information Act and ratified the Table Mountain Declaration,” he concluded.
The ceremony was attended by government officials, media owners and members of the diplomatic corps.
Making a special remark, Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh, proprietor and publisher of the News, said the vision for paper’s establishment was conceived by Klon Hinneh and Sam Van Kesselley in September 1988.
He disclosed that initial funding was provided by him and Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly, who was then Minister of Post and Telecommunications. He also stated that Vice President Boakai provided the News its first desks.