…To readjust itself if it must survive to play its proper role
Prince Kermue Moye, Bong County Electoral District #2 Representative as well as Deputy Speaker of the 54th Legislature, says the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) needs to graduate from just being an umbrella organization to a robust media regulatory body.
Moye’s commendation was contained in a speech he delivered during a program marking the 55th anniversary of the Union in Gbarnga on Monday, September 30, 2019.
He spoke of the need to regulate some media houses, which he said were practicing “ethical transgression” by reporting falsehood that has the propensity to permeate the media with “hired mercenaries pretending to be journalists.”
“The media landscape in the country is slowly becoming polarized by some bad apples. The PUL must take a stand,” Rep. Moye said.
He said the media – as a watchdog with a distinct role to play – should play its role void of sentiments or partiality.
“The media cannot be used as a platform by some individuals to get at the government or portray private citizens wrongly. It takes away the true essence of an impartial and independent media,” Moye said.
He also called on the media to be innovative and creative as they now exist in a new environment, challenged by a new reality.
“Let me state here that the traditional landscape of the press wherein the main perpetrator of crimes against the media was the government is rapidly changing as a result of the advent of the Internet. Today, there is a shrinking readership. Interest in newspapers has waned substantially,” Rep. Moye said.
He said the call for some form of retributive justice growing louder in Liberia is the result of the role the free press played to expose atrocities committed against unarmed civilians during the country’s civil crisis.
“Nowadays, personal bloggers crowd the media landscape, filtering and framing information, even though few have the time and resources required to perform the acts of investigative journalism. Someone’s reputation or character is destroyed long before the truth can be known,” Rep. Moye said.
The anniversary was celebrated under the theme, “Strengthening Reporting on Trafficking in Persons and Improving Media Regulation.”
Rep. Moye reminded journalists to play an essential role in disseminating and raising awareness to fight trafficking.
He said journalists will need the requisite tools, including training, sponsorship and equipment to cover their respective assignments (beats) in order to alleviate human trafficking, with women and children mostly from rural parts and impoverished families being the victims.
“Although sometimes you face many challenges in reporting on these issues, which often lead to the spread of half-truths and misconceptions, it is my hope that the fourth estate [the press] will continue to be that watchdog and partner in battling societal ills,” Rep. Moye said.
Earlier, PUL President Charles Coffey said the organization was established purposely to speak with one voice and to fight societal ills.
Coffey continued, “With the work of the media, some government officials have been asked to account for what the government and other partners gave them to implement projects.”
He said the role played by the free press led to the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI), the Table Mountain Declaration and the decriminalizing of free speech.
“What is really affecting the growth of the media is the economy, but despite these challenges, journalists go on their respective assigned beats in the rain and sun to get the required information for the common good of our country and its people; but again, those reporters in the lower ranks are being victimized by media executives,” Coffey said.
He continued, “The economic situation is appalling; advertisements cannot sustain the media institutions, with the emergence of social media; instead of the government using the newspapers or radio stations to advertise, they are using the “e-mansion website” to advertise. So, we want the government to revert to traditional media for advertisements as a means of empowering the press.”
He said despite the media being freed in the country, there is a creeping phenomenon in its landscape; if there is no remedy, it will undermine the development of the media such as to usher in “embedded journalism, political ownership of media institutions, and enemies of the media” that want to take over the fundamental role of the media.
“These institutions are using diatribe, calling for instability in the country, blackmailing; and I think these institutions must be resisted and/or closed. Few radio stations and few newspapers are polluting the good works some media institutions are doing,” he said.
He said the PUL has named Freedom FM and Root FM as the two media institutions used by their political owners to incite citizens against one another as well as the state authorities.