Press Union of Liberia (PUL) President, Abdullai Kamara has urged Liberian journalists to engage in responsible reporting to avoid defamation and intrusion into individual’s privacy.
Speaking at a one-day workshop organized by the Liberia Law Society recently, Mr. Kamara said “There is no need for journalists to report on something that is just about an individual that has no bearing on the public.”
“Our obligation as journalists is to report the true Liberian story, regardless of who is hurt by it as long as it is true. Take for instance the issue surrounding the death of Harry Greaves. Some are saying it should be laid to rest now, but if we receive new evidence, should we leave it? Certainly, we should report it.”
Mr. Kamara said “We expect the public to cooperate with the union when we suspend a journalist or media institution for going against our ethical guidelines, but media institutions are patronized by individuals in the public and as a result, institutions that breach the ethics do not at times feel the weight of our discipline.”
He admitted that “Freedom of speech is not absolutely free when you do not utilize it properly. You do not have to make statements or write articles that will malign other people.”
He, however, indicated that the Constitution of Liberia prescribes freedom of speech and the press, the aspect of responsibility is not fully defined.
On the basis of such ambiguity “it is certain that government officials and others use it against the media on what to report.
The head of the Liberia Law Society, Mr. Ezekiel Pajibo said, “The media has a lot to do but sometimes report things that malign other people’s character.
“Let the media Liberianize its reportage. There are interesting things about Liberia that should be reported, and our own local languages need to be given priority, but we don’t do it here. We prefer featuring foreign musicians and other icons, leaving our own people and languages out of the coverage.”
He also said “Free speech is not absolutely free. The freedom of speech you have today was not in the past and some of us suffered in past administrations. Do not see it as absolute and say things to defame other people’s character.”
The workshop brought together 25 journalists from various media institutions and civil society groups.
It highlighted “Freedom of speech” and its responsibility, and presenters elaborated on provisions in the Liberian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).