The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles B. Coffey Jr., says journalists are deprived of all social security, health benefits and owed several months of their salaries leading them to suffer.
Mr. Coffey made the remarks at the PUL 57th anniversary celebration in Voinjama City, Lofa County on Thursday, September 30, 2021 under the theme: “Enhancing the Voices of Citizens and the Government for Sustainable Development.”
At the program by scores of Liberian media practitioners, local and international partners, government officials and citizens of Lofa County, Mr. Coffey said “Many journalists working in the country have no job security. They are deprived of any form of social security and health benefits, while some have several months of outstanding salary arrears.”
Mr. Coffey said the fact that many Liberian journalists, particularly those in the lower cadre who work as reporters are poorly paid and ill motivated, partly explains the poor performances of some of these journalists and most importantly, the continuous disregard for the ethics of the profession.
Amid these critical issues, the PUL President said there has been a clarion call for a collective bargaining standard framework to determine what journalists are paid, their conditions of service in relation to the qualifications that they have and their level of professionalism.
“Standard Collective Agreement has been developed while collective negotiations have been launched at national level,” Mr. Coffey said.
He said most media owners and executives have often not been committed to any form of collective bargaining agreement for their workers, while the appalling economic condition has worsened the situation.
According to him, PUL had earlier planned a media economic conference, but it did materialize due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which disallowed Liberia’s media partner, the European Union Delegation to Liberia, to hold the conference.
He said the European Union delegation was working with PUL to hold the conference, stating that “We are optimistic that with the cases reducing and people fully vaccinated, we will by the grace of God hold the media economic conference and at the end we will develop the business model of the media.”
Notwithstanding, Mr. Coffey said some media institutions including print and electronic media have gone beyond the benchmark of the draft PUL collective bargaining agreement.
These media outlets pay journalists between 100 and 200 as beginners and between 300 and 500 and above USD for editors depending on the status of the journalist or media workers.
He, however, called on those media institutions that are far below the belt or lacking behind to double up, indicating that journalists and media workers deserve the best remuneration and other benefits.
“We also call on the government and business entities to do more advertisement in the traditional media and not just social media. This will help improve the media economy. The poor media economy is forcing many grass-roots media institutions into self-censorship,” he said.
The Director-General of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), Chief Moses Y. Kollie, said indeed, this is the time for the voices of the citizens and the government to be harmonized for the holistic growth and development of Liberia—and the media is that conduit that must be used to actualize this process for the overall good of the nation-state.
“As we all must be aware, the raging COVID-19 pandemic has not only sent many to their early graves, but has also negatively impacted the global economy,” Mr. Kollie who serves as keynote speaker at PUL 57th anniversary said.
Mr. Kollie said “This means that without the media assuming the responsibility of working to ensure that the voices of the citizens of Liberia and their government are professionally synchronized and disseminated via their various platforms for the consumption of the general public, the pace of our development shall remain slow or unsustainable.”
He indicated that now it is time that the Liberian media break away from the past and embark on a new era in which its reportage will be depoliticized.
“Yes, the time has reached for media practitioners to stop assassinating people’s hard earned character because of reasons that border on differences in political ideology or simply because of hatred or personal aggrandizement,” Mr. Kollie said.
Mr. Kollie called on journalists and Liberians in general to stop putting the image of the country in the “mud up there''—as doing so in the name of journalism will only impede Liberia’s progress as a nation and a people.
Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Liberia, Anders Arvidsson, said there is a need for everyone to work together to ensure that the speech and the media remain free.
Mr. Arvidsson said the EU will continue to work with the Liberian media and a plan is underway to organize a workshop in 2022.