As Liberian journalists go to the poll to elect a new leadership this weekend, one of the active and long-serving members of the Press Union is urging his colleagues to critically examine those vying for various posts to avoid electing a leadership that, he said, could betray the credibility and neutrality of the Union during next year’s crucial presidential and general elections.
Jonathan Paye-Layleh, a member of the Union since 1987, said in a press release that the ability of the media community to maintain its credibility and remain a principled body during the upcoming elections will greatly depend on the caliber of leaders the Press Union will elect during Saturday’s congress in Nimba.
Mr. Paye-Layleh said his warning comes against the background of clear, vivid and desperate attempts on the part of certain politicians to exploit the media community to propagate their political desires as well as actions by some journalists over the years suggesting they have chosen sides in next year’s elections.
He said even though the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia does not dictate or control the electoral policies of individual media institutions, any attempt to put in place a leadership that will compromise the neutrality of the body will have far-reaching, degrading and damning impacts on the entire media community in Liberia.
He therefore urged especially young and inexperienced members of the Union, some of whom will be voting for the first time, not to base their decisions on which candidates have what, in terms of money, to offer them.
Mr. Paye-Layleh said he was worried that in recent times, some members of the media community have chosen to fight a proxy war for politicians who only need the media when they are seeking public accommodation.
“Experience has shown,” said the veteran journalist, “that many people seeking political offices in Liberia only know the media when they are not there yet.”
Mr. Paye-Layleh hoped that the debate that will precede Saturday’s vote in Ganta will be free of mudslinging and character assassination so that in the end, he said, “what comes out is an example that national stakeholders can tap into.”