LEEWARG Calls for Responsible Post-Elections Media Reporting

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Amb. Tunde Ajisomo (center) reading the group's press statement.

Presents its first post-elections preliminary findings

The Liberia Elections Early Warning and Response Group (LEEWARG) has called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to ensure that media practitioners in the country uphold the ethics of the profession in this crucial electoral period and going forward if peace is to be maintained.

Addressing journalists over the weekend at its second post-elections press conference on its preliminary findings before and during the October polls, the chairman of LEEWARG, ECOWAS Ambassador to Liberia, Tunde O. Ajisomo, said while it is a good thing to have press freedom, the responsibilities associated with that freedom should not be abused; and most importantly, must not neglect the need to protect the hard-earned peace.

“The Press Union of Liberia should ensure that media institutions maintain its code of ethics in providing the public credible information on the electoral processes and avoid bias and sensationalism in their reportage. This will help avoid ethical transgression that may inflame electoral violence,” he said.

Making reference to what happened at the Calvary Chapel Mission School precinct in Paynesville, Montserrado District #6, Amb. Ajisomo said journalists who visited that voting center nearly “let heaven lose” based on their inflammatory reportage about happenings as the polling went on.

“Those journalists who were in huge numbers, over-reported about the electoral irregularities such as late arrival of ballots, incompetence of some polling staff, among others that unfolded,” he said, adding that it is about time the PUL becomes proactive in monitoring the operations of media houses and their employees who report from the field.

Touching on his organization’s electoral findings, he said inasmuch as there were challenges, the general atmosphere of the polls was peaceful.

He explained that his organization’s key observations on the electoral process include, but are not limited to, “voting done on October 11 in Saygbeken, Debepo, Sinoe electoral District #2 instead of the previous day due to the late arrival of elections materials.”
“Challenges with voter registration card matching with final registration roll (FRR) at many centers led to the discouragement of voters. In the case of Margibi County, Rock Church Community, District #1, including other areas, people left the polling centers because they were told that their names were not on the FRR and therefore they could not vote,” Amb. Ajisomo noted.

He added that in Korduah community of Buchanan, Grand Bassa electoral District #3, a precinct center was relocated to a new vicinity without the knowledge of those who were to vote there, thereby creating tension after the relocation was discovered by a few voters.
He named Grand Gedeh District #1, Gbarpolu District #1 and Montserrado Districts #6 and 17 as areas where challenges were identified because of the polling staff’s inability to identify the serial numbers on voters’ cards.

Interventions

Amb. Ajisomo said upon discovering the challenges, LEEWARG made calls to the NEC, LNP and other key stakeholders in Monrovia to address issues emanating from those polling centers.
“We held four press conferences to provide situational reports on the elections and to generally appeal for calm and respect for the electoral process,” he noted, adding that a shuttle diplomacy was conducted with some key political leaders and stakeholders to encourage them to have confidence in the NEC’s delivery of a credible electoral outcome.
Amb. Ajisomo called on state security, especially the LNP, to continue to be responsive to emerging security threats to the electoral process.

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