Rep. Koffa Cautions Liberian Journalists

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"... most of them, without regard for their own professional ethics and integrity, go about “hijacking” people with damaging stories with the sole intent of soliciting bribes," Rep. J. Fonati Koffa told the PUL 2019 Congress.

Grand Kru County District #2 Representative Fonati Koffa, like many others, says while the press remains the pacesetter an plays a “significantly important role in the society,” many Liberian journalists have laid aside fairness, honesty and transparency in their reportage by giving out information only intended to blackmail others.

Without telling journalists not to write or report critical stories, Koffa, who served as a guest speaker at the Press Union of Liberia Congress held on the main campus of the University of Liberia on November 7, 2019, said many journalists feel that being critical on a story means that the story is strong, but they hold onto the notion of being critical in order to intimidate and harass news makers to solicit money.

Partial reporting, soliciting bribes to bury a story or the truth, disrespectful behavior towards news makers, drunkenness on duty, and any form of poor behavioral conduct on the part of a journalist, is considered under the PUL Code of Conduct as “unethical.”

In the Liberian environment, it is an open secret that many journalists are surviving by gratuity otherwise referred locally as “Kato,” reversion of the French word “Cadeau.”

Recounting his experience with journalists, Rep. Koffa said many a time journalists will call and say they have a story about a person, and pressurize that person to respond immediately, threatening to report such a story if the person refuses to respond.

“When a journalist says this, and I respond that the information is false, the journalist will then say, ‘You know you are a public figure, and such information is not good to be spread about you,’ and in the end, I will give US$500 to bury the story,” Rep. Koffa said.

He continued, “And you will see other journalists defending the person, who has intimidated and harassed people to get money and to blackmail.”

By reasoning, Koffa said, Liberian journalists are “poverty-stricken people” and because of this, most of them, without regard for their own professional ethics and integrity, go about “hijacking” people with damaging stories with the sole intent of soliciting bribes.

Though he did not delve into the income of media institutions, Rep. Koffa believes many Liberian journalists earn less than US$150, and as bad as the Liberian economy has become, with many people finding it difficult to receive money from their savings at the banks, many media institutions are owing their workers over five months in salary arrears.

He said when money is not given, journalists proceed with reporting stories that are one-sided or basically untrue.  “When that is done to me, I have nothing to write, but you journalists will write all that you can about me.  Now, my friends, let me say today in your presence how most of you go about reporting untrue stories about people only because you want them to give you money,” said Koffa.

Besides journalists soliciting bribes to bury damaging information or unduly promote personalities, Rep. Koffa also questioned the PUL regarding what became of the US$100,000 that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf gave to build its headquarters in Sinkor.

As the media watches out to report corruption and ills in society, Koffa wondered how will a watchdog reporting about others engaging in corrupt practices be counted among institutions that cannot account for money given for its own headquarters.

“What happened to this money, Mr. President? Was it stolen? We are still waiting to hear what became of this money, though the press continues to report about corruption,” Rep. Koffa said.

The PUL Congress at this time is discussing topics including “State of the Media Economy” as well as “Self-Regulation Versus State Regulation”.

In his recommendation on State of the Media Economy, Rep. Koffa told the PUL to be innovative and design business strategies which will bring money to the umbrella organization to help journalists, instead of relying solely on reporting stories and soliciting bribes to get money.

He said having an endowment fund and media institutions being honest and sincere to pay journalists will make the journalists responsible in reporting; other than these, Koffa said, harassing news makers for money, which taints the integrity of a journalist, will continue.

The PUL Congress was attended by less than one hundred journalists, including registered members of the PUL and guests. In response to such paltry attendance, the Chairman of the Congress, Attorney Alphonsus Zeon remarked that journalists say more things about others, but do not have the time to say or act on what concerns them. According to the latest PUL voters’ roll, the Union has a membership of 1,166 journalists.

As a result of the very low attendance, panel discussions that were to be held were postponed to Friday, November 8, during which time candidates running for various positions, including president, vice president, secretary-general and assistant secretary general, will be facing members to debate and put forward what they have in packages for the development of the organization.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah….why isn’t the Press investigating the US$100,000 that former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf gave PUL to build its headquarters?? Looks like the Press is covering up its own corruption. Let’s check their bank accounts to see how many journalists got paid off.

  2. Mr. Scott, because the Pres Union involved in corruption concerning the construction its own headquarter, does that qualified the statements of accusations against journalists being made by a Representative of the House who by profession is a lawyer ? For your understanding, it was the Press Union, and not the individual journalist(s) who are honestly performing their duties. Most , if not all of the journalists that heard of their union engaged in such corrupt scandals stood up and spoke against that kind of corrupt practice. Many journalists expressed their displeasure about their union’s corrupt practiced. The Representative spoke as a jackass, and not as a lawyer who could not produce evidence or name one person who was allegedly blackmailed by a journalist or journalists. He could not give evidence that he himself was a victim of such corrupt practices. The Representative spoke as a silly jackass. The act of calling upon these top government officials to grace these occasions has proven to be counterproductive and useless. And the Representative gives supporting evidence to that fact by speaking outside of the theme for the occasion to making unproven accusations of bribery to bury articles. Well PUL , call him back again, and see how many journalists will attend . Or for that matters, call upon another government official. It will be the same statements concerning solicitation of bribery and blackmail by the press or journalists going
    after officials of government. He was just a jackass.

  3. James Davis, you are the real jackass, a bitch and a half, a shithead.you are so doggone untrained…you are so RUDE til you don’t have respect for your ma.

    • James Davis will show respect to people who have trained minds , used them intellectually. Never was a worshiper of anyone who is professionally trained and uses such training for public entertainment. Then James Davis knows that person is a jackass. He is a lawyer, not just a lawyer but a professional one and a former prosecutor. Accusing someone or a group of people as blackmailers and engaging in bribery, and other scandals, Mr. Cooler you won’t be cool with that, if he said that about you. Would you ? And sure, many journalists or some are not cool with that either, Mr. Cooler. There was a subject to be discussed, but the professional lawyer went out to insult and called a group of people and associate them with accusations that he could not provide. If those journalists did the same to him , then what ? If the journalists accused the former prosecutor of something he never did , then what ? Which one of those journalists the former prosecutor knows to be a blackmailer? But Mr. Cooler , you are your own person. James Davis is just holding the lawmaker, former prosecutor accountable for those jackass statements and for him to live by his profession . Anything outside of that makes him a jackass. Cause he knows better. And his performance at that occasion makes him one. That’s what makes James Davis different from you, Mr. Cooler. Will come out and say it. Bet , he will choose his words carefully and address the issues at hand. And avoid accusing responsible and respectable people who he does not know to be blackmailers and engaging in bribery. That’s not cool Mr. Cooler .But thanks for reading the post by James Davis.

  4. Comrade Cooler High,
    I understand how frustrated you are. But, you are better than that. James David (a guy that I don’t know) may have crossed your path in a negative way. Maybe, he didn’t! Whatever the case, let’s show our intellectualism. Let’s refrain from the use of broadsides as a way to resolve our conflicts.

    This is not a sermon.
    Peace.

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