MONROVIA-The president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Charles Coffey, acknowledges lot of human rights abuses ongoing in the country, especially through attacks, harassments, intimidations, coercions by powerful people.
Coffey mentioned that powerful people in the society do a lot to abuse the masses and there is a need for media practitioners to prioritize and be more robust in reporting on abuses that Liberians are facing across the country.
Speaking at the opening of a three-day human rights reporting training workshop in Monrovia recently, PUL President said “If you were to go places across this country, especially towns and villages in our rural areas, you will identify countless human rights abuses.”
He further bewailed; “but let it be established here that as media practitioners, you will be unable to identify those abuses if you do not have the requisite training that would serve as an opener or guide for you. We all need to know what human rights are and what constitutes the abuse of those rights.”
The initiative is under the auspices of the “Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19 (MMFC) project” initiated by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), a Canada-based charity organization.
The training brought together at least fifteen journalists representing electronic and print media houses have converged in Monrovia to undergo a five-month mentoring program aimed at combating COVID-19 related misinformation and other forms of human rights violations in the country, especially during the course of the fight against the pandemic.
Mr. Coffey said in his brief remarks that the project will help unearth many of the violations that went on during the heat of the fight against the pandemic in the country, especially during the course of the state of emergency when some security officers became more ruthless.
“This is why this training is so much important. We want to appreciate the JHR and her collaborating partners for initiating such a program. This will be of great help to our journalists in particular and the society in general,” he said.
The PUL president stated that the media is the watchdog and it most watch over everything, especially how the country’s resources are used to benefit the people
Though political issues are the concentration of most journalists and media houses, he said there should be some shift or consideration in looking at human rights abuses across the country.
“If a community lacks safe drinking water and there are funds allotted in the national budget for such a purposes but nothing is being done and those residents are constrained to fetch water from the creeks and rivers to drink…then their rights are being violated. We need to pursue these stories and bring them to light. Our people deserve better,” he said.
“We should also look at the people’s rights to healthcare and education. We put our leaders in power to maximize the resources we have for the public good.”
Lead human rights campaigner, Adama Dempster, called on the mentees to acquaint themselves with the various international, regional and local instruments that guarantee the rights of people. “When you do that then you have equipped yourselves adequately for robust reporting on human rights violations in the country,” he stated.
Mr. Dempster added that it I regrettable that Liberian journalists focus too much on reporting on civil and political rights and while doing so ignore the rest of the eight different international human rights treaties that have come into force.
“It is important that you draw a line as to how you are going to engage yourself in covering human rights issues. with that you will not narrow human rights reporting to just civil and political rights. That is you will not take up most of your time following politicians.
At a time when JHR believes there is much fake news and misinformation which they termed as “infodemic”, the mentees will be capacitated to report objectively and accurately on rights issues.
FrontPage Africa’s Desk Editor, Lennart Dodoo said the media plays important role in the protection of human rights of citizens in the country serving as the voice of the people. FPA is JHR’s official implementing partner in the country.
Mr. Dodoo called on the journalists to help unearth and report the human rights abuses that are going on in the country, while urging them to be guarded by the journalistic code of ethics.
He said, “As human rights journalists, let us report accurately and objectively to ensure that governments and individuals are held accountable for their actions.”
JHR and its sponsors believe that trusted local journalists can play a critical role in communicating accurate public health measures and in combating what is now known as infodemic of misinformation—a thought that gave birth to the project.
The launch of the project, which officially took place on Thursday, May 6, 2021 in Monrovia, will have the story ideas of journalists selected through a Call for Pitches from across the country while liaising with two media trainers with knowledge on human rights reporting, gender sensitive writing, fact-checking among others.
The two local mentors for the project are Mr. William Q. Harmon of the Daily Observer Newspaper and Mr. Gerald C. Koinyeneh of FrontPage Africa with Madam Gloria T. Tamba of Spoon FM/TV, who is out of the country, contributing to the initiative from afar.
Meanwhile, the ‘Mobilizing Media Fighting Covid19′ project will contribute to international public health efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on human rights, in particular women’s and girls’ rights, across 12 countries and is funded by Global Affairs Canada.