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FrontPage Comment: There The PUL Goes Again

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Does It Really Know What Constitutes Ethical Transgression? (Pt-1): The Press Union of Liberia or PUL never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes, I wonder whether it takes key interest in certain personalities and institutions or maybe it just doesn’t understand simple journalistic checklist and what constitutes ethical transgression.

Sometimes too, I wonder whether the PUL has become a proxy public relations arm for some interested politicians, who are limited in their own public relations campaigns. What saddens me most is the Union describing as unethical, a narrative written by a journalist, who was also part of the sequent of events and in the process accused of “aiding and abetting”.

But beyond that, isn’t it very shameful and disgraceful and to a large extend personal that some of the very senior members of the PUL, who rendered such verdict, had themselves fought tooth and nails to sweep the story under the carpet but to no avail?

The subject here involves a reporter of this paper, Mr. E. J. Nathaniel Dagbor and a Senator of Maryland County Mr. Dan Morias concerning an unfolding story in which the PUL in its own wisdom has asked this paper to retract.

On August 29, 2012, a gentleman walked into the compound of the United Nations Radio (not live interview as was mistakenly edited in the actual story) with a story to tell.  The story was an allegation that Sen. Morias was linked to kidnapping his 23-year old son for ritual purposes locally known as “Gboyo”.

Sen. Morias had been previously accused of being involved in some “Gboyo” activities months before he ascended to the Senatorial seat of his county but had been cleared of the charges.

So, the UNMIL Radio reporter, who encountered Sen. Morias’s accuser, called up the Senator and informed him that a gentleman had come to their station with an allegation against him therefore, he was wanted for comment. Sen. Morias then responded, requesting that his accuser be there until he arrives.

In that sequent of event reporter Dagbor and other reporters were hinted that a man had gone to the UNMIL Radio and had accused the Senator of kidnapping his son for gboyo purposes.

The reporters got there and even encountered Sen. Morias, who had come with two police officers to effect the arrest of his accuser, but not to give his side of the story as being the previous reason for which he was called up by the radio station.

At the UNMIL Radio compound, reporter Dagbor and colleagues requested an interview with the senator on the ongoing. Sen. Morias informed the reporters that he was heading to the Police Headquarters and would have spoken with them afterwards but reminded them to call him.

The Senator left the UNMIL Radio compound, believing that his accuser was already in the hands of the police and had gone ahead at the police headquarters to await them.

Now, attempts by the two police officers to arrest Mr. Anthony Slobert, Morias’ accuser in the compound of UNMIL Radio were prevented by authorities there on grounds that no arrest should be made inside the Mission’s compound. And so the arresting officers waited till Slobert was out of the compound.

Reporters Daygbor, Keith Morris of the Daily Observer and Victor Sieh of UNMIL Radio were all still on the scene, waiting to see what would have happened next.

And so as they waited, Slobert finally decided to go with the officers at their Headquarters. As the journalists followed the trio, they pleaded with the arresting officers to kindly allow them to interview Slobert before taking him.

During their pleas, they informed the police officers that if they didn’t speak to him before taking him at the Police Headquarters they may not have such opportunity to do so there. This is how the police allowed the journalists to interview Slobert, bearing in mind that they would have met Sen. Morias at the Police Headquarters.

It was during the interview that Slobert alleged that his 23-year old son had gone missing in Maryland and he linked Sen. Morias to the alleged crime, which he added was for Gboyo purpose. The journalists upon completion of their interview with Slobert called Sen. Morias, who confirmed that he was still at the Police Headquarters.

And so, they informed him that they were on their way there, as Slobert and the arresting officers walked towards the Police Headquarters. But as they got closer Slobert jitters; fearing what might happen to him, he told the police officers that he could no longer go to the police Headquarters in the absence of an arrest warrant and therefore he got away. But this did not stop the reporters from reaching the police station to speak with the Senator.

Upon the arrival of the reporters at the police headquarters, Morias informed the police that those reporters, who conducted the interview with Slobert, told him to leave.

“The two police officers have just told their director and me that you people are the ones, who told the young man to leave; based on this, you too will answer questions and tell us what you know about the information. In fact, the two officers are currently disrobed for such unprofessional act,” Senator Morias said.

The reporters said in no time, they were escorted by the officers into the investigation room of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the police. Dagbor and Keith were later asked to leave while Victor Sieh was held there further. This was after Morias, who appeared confused and troubled by news linking him to ritualistic activities in his county, later said only reporter Victor Sieh of UNMIL Radio should be probed because he has  ‘special interest’ in the case.

When the reporters contacted the Director for the Liberia National Police Chris Massaquoi to intervene, he told them to comply with the investigation as he could not interfere with the interrogation.  This was the account that reporter Dagbor filed that the PUL now wants this paper to retract.

In the first place, PUL President Peter Quaqua made several calls on the night of the incident, pleading with reporter Dagbor to hold onto the story. His series of appeals were followed by Julius Kanubah, a former official of the PUL also requesting the reporter to hold the story. By this time the reporter had filed his story and left for home.

Now what are the issues?

First, a man walks into the offices of a media institution, claiming to have a story. The next thing the Senator is called to provide his response, but instead of a response he comes with arresting officers (abuse of power).

The officers as a result of their own negligence caused the man to flee. The Senator now accuses the journalists of aiding and abetting his accuser’s escape and so he runs to the PUL.

The PUL with some of its officials having vested interest, in response passed a verdict, saying the paper is wrong; it did not contact the Senator. Wow, which type of ethical committee is this that does not follow sequent of events or understands practical journalistic practices?

This is an account of a reporter who ended up at a national police headquarters and the source who should have been interviewed pointed to him and other colleagues as suspects who aided and abetted the escape of his accuser.

The PUL, thanks to Philip Wesseh, who trashed that aspect of the nonsense allegation (aided and abetted), but failed to remind the Senator that again, the sequent of events reported, also included him and that the reporter’s narration explains all.

Now, I don’t know which one of the ethics committee members as a reporter will see such a story unfolding before their very eyes and at the same time being accused in the middle and still don’t have a story -Then your journalistic skill and your definition of news needs serious questioning.

But that being said, what does the so-called PUL committee wants this paper to retract? Is it that the events as narrated never took place or that Sen. Morias did not carry police officers at UNMIL?

From my point of view, there is nothing to retract. Does the PUL really want to be taken seriously?

To Be Continued.

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