By Chris F. Pewu (Intern)
The president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has advised journalists to be guided by the ethics of journalism in the course of their professional duties.
Speaking recently at a regional Watch for Human Rights one-day media workshop in Monrovia, president Charles Coffey said journalists should respond promptly to concerns from the public especially in cases where the disseminated information was proven to be inaccurate which, he said, calls for an appropriate public apology.
Coffey said journalists should not charge crime suspects as guilty in their broadcasts and publications until they are charged by the Liberia National Police and also refrain from naming or printing names of relatives or friends of persons accused or convicted of a crime.
He said that negative information can lead to destruction, adding that journalists should promote Liberia positively in this election period to maintain the country’s 12 years of peace.
Coffey called on journalists to avoid discriminatory and derogatory utterances and stereotyping of certain individuals because of their race, creed, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, mental or physical challenges and sexual orientation.
He said said talk show hosts also have a responsibility to be accurate and impartial in their coverage of election issues and candidates, with all candidates given opportunities to be heard. He called on newspaper columnists, editorial writers and other commentators to be judicious in expressing their views about election issues and candidates.
Subjective opinions, he said, should not influence objective news coverage. He said opinion pieces should be clearly identified and not mixed with facts.
He said journalists should respect embargoes on stories, adding that no editor or publisher should compel a reporter to write or broadcast false information, or express an opinion that is contrary to his or her professional convictions.
Coffey said responsible election reporting should promote national unity and respect for the rule of law, and must reject appeals to sectarian or ethnic prejudice and conflict. He wants journalists to reflect the diversity of voices in their coverage.
He called on journalists to conduct themselves with the highest standard of professional ethics at all times and must strive to maintain the confidence and respect of the public through their news content and their professional comportment.
The executive director for Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR), Cllr. Thompson Adebayor, who is a former journalist, commended Coffey for his words of encouragement to Liberian journalists.
Director Adebayor referred to journalists as key players in the election and urged them to be wise in their professional duties.