The United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF) Child Protection Officer in Liberia, Madam Ina Christensen, has underscored the pivotal role the media plays in society.
Against this backdrop, Madam Christensen encouraged journalists in the country to use their platforms in reporting on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), Harmful Practices (HP) and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA).
According to Madam Christensen, using the media to create awareness and sensitization about SGBV is key, and therefore, she further encouraged journalists in the country to be more proactive in their reportage, especially when it comes to the fight against SGBV, HP and SEA.
The UNICEF Protection Officer in Liberia then admonished that any efforts to document on SGBV for the purposes of media reporting must first prioritize the survivors’ safety, noting that the survivors’ interest must be supreme over other objectives.
She was speaking on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at the official opening of a two-day workshop aimed at strengthening the skills and knowledge of journalists in reporting SGBV, HP and SEA.
The two-day workshop, which is being carried out by the University of Liberia (UL) in collaboration with UNICEF, is taking place on the UL Fendall Campus, outside Monrovia and is being attended by 30 Liberian journalists drawn from seven of the country’s 15 counties with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA.
The seven counties include Montserrado, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, River Cess, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Bomi Counties.
Speaking further, Madam Christensen urged the media to serve as a conduit in highlighting issues affecting women, girls and children.
“You, as media workers, play an important role in the fight against SGVB. We have gathered you here for the two days to go beyond just reporting rape cases and SGBV, but to dig out more,” she, among other things, added.
Making a brief remark on behalf of the UL President Dr. Julius S. Nelson, Mr. Cletus A. Sieh, Head of Administration in the President’s office, used the occasion to call for empowerment for the media in reporting SGBV issues.
According to him, media empowerment should not only be left with their managers, but as well as government, national and international partners to help empower the media for such reporting ventures.
“We, as government, managers of media institutions and partners need not to only empower the media with workshops, but to financially empower them to ensure that they go beyond the villages and towns to dig out the hard facts that will put an end to SGBV crimes and harmful traditional practices,” he pointed out.
For his part, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Charles B. Coffey, Jr., admonished the participants-journalists to make maximum use of the knowledge and skills they will acquire from the two-day gathering in the interest of the country.
Coffey expressed confidence in the abilities of the participants in the actualization of the objectives of the two-day workshop, which is being held under the theme: “Media Empowerment, Key to ending SGBV, HP and SEA”.
Speaking on the topic: “Media Law and Ethics”, the PUL President noted that despite the duty of reporting as journalists, cases of rape, SGBV and SEA must be reported with fairness and objectivity, rather than reporting the stories with what he described as “emotional intelligence and prejudices’’.
He acknowledged that in order to end SGBV and harmful traditional norms, the media is the bedrock in educating the public and the society in line with professionalism.
Meanwhile, he called on journalists in the country to refrain from publishing or broadcasting stories inimical to the norms and ethical practices of the media, warning that unethical practice leads to slander and other lawsuits against individual journalists or the media institution.