Election day in Liberia is just a few hours away and those in the Diaspora depend on the media to keep them informed of what’s happening. Therefore, there have been series of training and workshops from various organization and human rights groups in making sure the media upholds its commitment to ethics and transparency as watchdogs of society.
“The media is the primary resource through which public opinion is shaped and at times manipulated,” ACTION AID has reported.
If you recall what happened in Rwanda back in April 1994, an estimated of 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days, BBC reported. The deaths were not only caused by the death of then Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, radio propaganda also played a major role.
Media managers, the NEC and other observers have kept this in mind when organizing journalists, media institutions, radio hosts and such others over the years, in their plans for covering elections.
The Press Union of Liberia printed out hundreds of pamphlets of the ‘Code of Ethics for Liberian Journalists,’ to remind them that they have a serious obligation to uphold the highest measure of ethical standard, professional competence and good behavior in performing their duty during this time.
“The code sets minimum benchmarks for ethical standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public’s right to know,” PUL printed.
Three major factors to look at when it comes to the ethics of Liberian journalists during the and voting process are:
- Article 3, Section 3.1: The journalist shall ensure by applying the highest professional standards that any information provided is accurate and presented in a fair and objective way. The journalist shall therefore refrain from publishing unfounded, slanted or biased information as well as mere rumors or conjectures.
- Article 8. Reporting on women, Section 8.1: Men and women shall be treated equally. The journalist shall avoid any statement of gender insensitivity, sexism and portrayal of women as sex objects.
- Also, Article 9, Section 9.1: The journalist shall avoid discriminatory and derogatory stereotyping of an individual’s race, creed, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, mental/physical illness and sexual orientation.
These three principles were the core focus of media workshops last week hosted by ACTION AID Liberia’s Media Training on Sexual and Gender Based Violence(SGBV) for elections coverage.
According to its Youth and Governance Advisor, Joseph Madwamuse, it is very relevant to know that having the right to vote or make decisions does not necessarily mean it falls under the rights of only women.
“Why not think about other rights and not just the rights of women, men rights, children rights, the elderly and disabled,” he questioned during the workshop held at the YWCA on October October 5, 2017.
“Giving people the dignity as citizens, the media is key and critical in making sure everyone has a voice. You have to give people opportunity to be heard who would not have the opportunity to,” he further added.
He articulated to a room comprising a gender balanced audience that human rights, women dignity, human dignity is build through having the right to vote, democracy and without the two, Liberian’s are stripped of that.
“We see the efforts the women are putting out there is not just about advancing women’s rights, but balancing gender,”
Joseph also added that, “There are people in our society that are unable to speak for themselves and their issues need to be challenged and looked into through a Human rights based approach,” he added.
He further stated that reporters should use ‘Gender lens’ — being able to see things differently.
“it’s the media’s duty to cover accountability an transparency by digging deeper to find out some of these issues. It brings a source of what the conflict is, for example if a voter is being harassed, you can find the source of the problem and be able to prevent it from further happening. The role of the media is very critical to the elections in exposing some of those issues and bringing them to light so everyone can see it and prevent it,” he added.
Elections signifies a basic challenge to the media, putting its lack of prejudice and objectivity to the test.The task of the media should not be to function as a spokesperson for any government body or particular candidate, Its basic role is to explain to and inform the public and act unbiased.