-In Sustaining Liberia’s Democracy
The President of the Liberian National Bar Association, Cllr. TiawanGongloe, says the Liberian media’s continued role in the sustenance of the Liberian democracy remains critical for the peace and stability of the country.
Over the years, Cllr. Gongloe said, the Liberian media has played a meaningful role in the general effort to attain, maintain and sustain the peace and democracy in Liberia through investigative reporting which exposed societal ills largely committed by Liberians in positions of trust.
According to a release issued by the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), Cllr. Gongloe spoke recently when he served as Keynote Speaker at the ALJA 2019 Annual Benefit Banquet held in Mounds View, Minnesota, USA. He spoke on the theme:“The Role of the Media in The Sustenance of the Liberian Democracy”.
The banquet formed part of activities that marked ALJA’s 5th post conflict annual national convention which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, beginning October 3rd through the 6th.
The occasion brought together nearly 300 persons including ALJA members and international journalists from Liberia, France and the People’s Republic of China.
Liberia’s Ambassador accredited to the US, George S.W. Patten, Sr., Presidential Press Secretary, Isaac Solo Kelgbeh, Liberia’s Counsel General in the State of Minnesota, Jackson George, Mayor Mike Elliot of the City of Brooklyn Center in Minnesota, Liberia’s Culture Ambassador JuliEndee and some diaspora Liberian community leaders were among the many eminent individuals that graced the occasion.
Cllr. Gongloe praised the Liberian media for the outstanding service it continues to render the people of Liberia. He declared “During the military rule and the civil conflict, Liberian journalists investigated and reported on the excesses of the military, political leaders, and warlords”. Then he recalled “Many of them were arrested, tortured and some were even killed”. He said despite the woes experienced over the years, the role of the Liberian media in the nation’s political governance and democracy remains indispensable.
He urged Liberian journalists to put their country’s interest foremost in the performance of their professional duties in information gathering, news analysis and dissemination even if “bullets are placed are to their chests”.
The notable Human Rights Lawyer cautioned the Liberian media against the gathering and propagation of falsehood; adding, “Lying to the public in the use of the radio, television or newspaper or even the social media could lead to the promotion of disputes between individuals, tribal and religious communities, or among government officials, officials of government and the people they serve, and thereby promote mass disenchantment and undermine the peace and stability in Liberia”.
He emphasized “Democracy cannot be sustained in chaos. Therefore, if falsehood has the propensity to cause chaos, then journalists must commit themselves to reporting the truth under all circumstances”.
He frowned on Liberians including government officials, who consciously engage in wrongful acts, but often complain about every information that is reported by the media irrespective of whether or not the information reported is factual or not.
He said some Liberians including government officials even go the extent of urging the media to engage in cover-ups or report information that would project a positive image of Liberia at home and abroad. He said some even go to the extent of accusing the media of driving away investors.
However, the Liberian National Bar Association President countered “It is not the manner in which a particular story is reported that makes Liberia looks bad; rather it is always the story itself”.
He argued if an act or conduct that is reported on is bad, there is nothing that a media institution can do without violating the ethics of journalism to make Liberia look good in reporting it.
He advised “The blame for stories that make Liberia look bad must always be squarely placed on the perpetrators of the bad acts and conducts that are reported on; and not the media. Therefore, the media must always remain on the side of reporting the truth as a way of sustaining the peace and democracy in Liberia”.
He said the Liberian media now has no excuse for not reporting the truth about the government and its functionaries because the laws that criminalized free expression in Liberia have been repealed. In 2018, President George MannehWeah spearheaded the repeal of the laws, Sedition, Criminal Malevolence and Criminal Libel against the President.
The Liberian National Bar Association President said over the years, those laws made it difficult for Liberians to speak and write freely about their government and its functionaries.
He said given that the media in today’s Liberia has no more legal constraints in reporting the truth, Liberian journalists should now exert all efforts in getting to the bottom of every story and not rush to report a story without conducting full investigation; adding “The harm that may be done by not reporting a full story is greater than the harm that may be done by any delay in reporting a story.”
Meanwhile, Cllr. Gongloe says the obligation of factual and accurate reporting in the media should not be limited to privately owned media institutions. He proposed that similar professional standard be applied to government owned and operated media institutions.
He urged managers and journalists at government-owned media entities to resist all temptations for the propagation of falsehood because such conduct undermines the integrity of those media institutions and the credibility of public information emanating from the government.
At the same time, Cllr. Gongloe says the Liberian National Bar Association under his leadership will remain a committed partner of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and all actors in the Media, including the Association of the Liberian Journalists in the Americas and users of the social media in the collective struggle of the Liberian people for sustaining peace and democracy in Liberia.
He said over the years, the Liberian National Bar Association has been promoting adherence to the rule of law in various ways. He said the current leadership of the Bar Association has made a clear commitment to providing general counsel to the Government of Liberia, the Civil Society and the business community on adherence to the rule of law and respect for human rights.