The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has resolved a standoff between the National Chronicle Newspaper and the Press Bureau of the Liberian Senate.
The mediation followed a complaint filed by the Director of the Senate Press Bureau Jarlawah A. Tonpo, in which he accused the National Chronicle of maligning his character following a report in the paper that Tonpo had led a group of ex-combatants to attack the paper and its reporter.
The National Chronicle, in successive editions, alleged that Tonpo led the group that threatened to attack Reporter Monica Samuel and burn down their offices, when he called at the paper’s office to verify facts about a murder story it published, to which Bomi Senator Lahai Lassanah and one Victor Jah were linked.
The Senate Press Bureau, while seeking the PUL’s intervention in what it called an erroneous publication by the paper, also suspended the National Chronicle from covering the Senate, pending the union’s intervention.
During its investigation into the saga Thursday, both parties realized that they at some point “overly acted” and agreed to bury their differences and proceed with their respective duties.
Tonpo denied taking with him ex-combatants at the National Chronicle’s office, but admitted that they might have followed the driver of Senator Lansannah who drove him at the Paper’s office.
In resolving the stand-off, the Press Union of Liberia blamed the Senate Press Director for the action of the unauthorized men at the offices of the National Chronicle from the fact that they were accomplices of the Senator’s driver, who had himself followed Tonpo.
The PUL also denounced any action aimed at denying journalists access to public facilities, on account of disagreements.
“This action is a violation of the media entity’s right to public information, and it undermines free speech and press freedom in any democratic society,” PUL President Abdullai Kamara said.
Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia has taken offence with The Reporter Newspaper for failing to retract an article in its April 14 edition, in which it made difficult and unconfirmed allegations against the Guinean Ambassador to Liberia, El Hadj Abdoulaye Dore.
At the hearing held on April 15, the PUL ruled that the issues reported in article written by Reporter Mike Jabateh in the April 14 edition did not present verified facts, cited faceless sources, did not get the side of Ambassador Dore and effectively brought his reputation into disrepute – all in violation of various sections of the PUL code of ethics and conduct.
The PUL is also offended by the fact that inspite of the decision, The Reporter is yet to come out with the clarification, as was agreed during the meeting.
The PUL notes that media institutions would be putting themselves and their journalists at greater risks of frivolous lawsuits not only by reporting unverified stories, but refusing to abide by the result of peer reviews.
The PUL will not in any way restrain any media house from pursuing any matter, but if you are reporting a particular matter, you must go to the length of gathering the facts, crosschecking these facts with relevant sources, and engaging those who are accused or involved.
In this way, you will be freeing yourself from undue criticism and making your journalism one of credit.
The PUL’s strength in standing up to those bent on restricting freedom of the press is guaranteed by journalists and media houses who accept the PUL as the source of professional development and peer regulation.