The Female Journalists of Liberia (FeJAL) says it is gravely disappointed by the display of attitude exhibited by both the elections committee (EC) and the National Media Council (NMC) in handling concerns raised by aspirant Facia Harris through team Harris as well as the Association in the pending Press Union of Liberia (PUL) leadership elections.
In its November 6, 2019, clarification, the NMC acknowledged that it did extend an invitation to Ms. Harris following her prior complaint of October 26, 2019, and that a letter from the EC on November 4, 2019, informed the NMC of its inability to appear before the council due to some overwhelming electoral matters “which, for us,” FeJAL said, “is another flimsy reason as Ms. Harris’ complaint also borders on electoral matters.”
Speaking of Facia Harris, who had a distinguished career with UNMIL Radio, under the public information section of the erstwhile United Nations Mission in Liberia, FeJAL said: “We are indeed baffled that if the NMC had prior notice of the EC’s absence at such crucial meeting, why did it not notify Team Harris and the concerned parties about the EC’s excuse, yet had all parties present, including the legal counsel of Ms. Harris, which for us was a serious waste of time.”
“Now that the elections are expected to be held on Saturday, November 9, 2019, we reiterate our disappointment over Ms. Harris’s calculated disqualification from the process due to an obsolete law that even the EC is finding hard to justify and, as such, has cleverly boycotted all mitigation processes aimed at ensuring due process for the aggrieved by their gross absence from the Tuesday, November 5, 2019, meeting scheduled by the NMC,” FeJAL said.
The disqualification of Ms. Harris, according to FeJAL, has no magnitude as her current position at the Independent Information Commission (IIC) clearly spells out the terms of reference (TOR) for the position of a director for Outreach and Sensitization, a position she currently occupies.
FeJAL states and still maintains that, as director for Outreach and Sensitization, Ms. Harris in no way occupies a public relations officer position, as the EC has made the public to believe, because the IIC has no such position in its TOR.
Team Harris earlier informed the pubic that they would exhaust all means for a redress available in reference to the EC’s decision to disqualify Ms. Harris on the grounds provided; and FeJAL believes without doubt that she is on the right trajectory, but the attitude of the NMC and the EC proved unacceptable in that PUL is still in a state of “gender insensitivity.”
For the NMC, which replaced the Grievance and Ethics Committee, being the biggest platform for redress guiding against ethical issues from the public as well as “media-related” disputes to provide an ill-packaged justification for not convening for its own called meeting, further suggests to the Association that indeed the NMC’s action was glaringly intentional, disrespectful and grossly provocative, again being cognizant of its own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that it cannot convene until there is a quorum.
“The Association will not hesitate to state that the action of members of the NMC to pay less interest in attending that Tuesday meeting when it bordered on ‘media-related issues’ was not only a slap in the face of Team Harris, but also a lack of cordiality amongst themselves and a deliberate insolence to FeJAL as a participating auxiliary in the pending elections,” the FeJAL statement said.
“If that had been our male colleagues, with an inch of concern during this period, even the leadership would have given them ears as done recently in the case of Webster Cassell and others in times past. This attitude must stop, because females make up a significant portion of the voters’ roll, and therefore that is an indication that they are a voice in the forward march of the Union.”
Meanwhile, FeJAL assures Team Harris of its unwavering support in whatever “EXTERNAL LEGAL REDRESS” it is contemplating on in the coming days and which is intended to find closure to this matter, and calls on Ms. Harris not to be deterred by the last minute’s ostracism shown towards her by the PUL and its EC as well as the NMC’s lackadaisical behavior in mitigating the matter when in all earnest it was the organizer of said called meeting.
NMC Unable to hear elections dispute
FeJAL’s statement is in reaction to failure on the part of the executives of NMC to honor an invitation to hear Ms. Harris’ complaint of October 26, 2019, which she appeared on November 5, before the NMC for hearing in the dispute with the EC of the PUL centering on her disqualification to participate in tomorrow’s elections.
In a letter of November 4, 2019, the EC informed the NMC of its inability to appear before the Council due to “overwhelming electoral matters.” As a result of its absence, the NMC could not proceed with hearing the matter, a press release the Council issued earlier has said.
The NMC was established as a national framework for the purpose of self-regulating media
accountability and professional conduct in Liberia based on the scope and provisions of code of
ethics for journalists.
Pursuant to the framework establishing the NMC, its core purpose is to mediate media-related disputes, keep under review and where appropriate, comment on political, legislative, commercial or other developments, which may adversely affect the dissemination of information of public interest, and threaten the public’s right to know.
The NMC notes emphatically that its mediation process is solely based on the voluntary consent
of disputing parties hence the NMC could not hear the matter.