The Liberian Government and media executives here have adopted a draft peace compact at a retreat called by President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to get the media’s perspectives on wide ranging issues including governance, the pending elections, corruption and security, among others.
“At the end of the day, I want a compact with you; a compact for peace, a compact for civility, a compact to promote an environment where indeed we can have a free and fair elections, and the people’s choice, truly the people’s choice can be achieved and can be respected”, Mr. Sirleaf told media executives at the start of the one – day retreat on Friday, 14 July in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
A draft resolution adopted Friday at the end of the retreat pledges the media’s professional and ethical commitment that will not allow media platforms to be used to incite violence that disrupts the peace of the country during the electoral process and beyond.
Mrs. Sirleaf had expressed hope for a fully interactive discussion without being acrimonious, to enable her listen to some of the issues that have been raised in the media at the retreat.
The one – day retreat called by Mrs. Sirleaf brought together newspaper publishers, electronic media managers, and officials of the Press Union of Liberia as well as government officials including Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, Solicitor General Cllr. Betty Lamin Blamo and Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah, among others.
Mrs. Sirleaf suggested that the discussion be centered on “where we are” and what has happened to the growth of the economy, issues relating to foreign exchange, infrastructure, and the private sector. Other issues of concerns were government response to the use of the nation’s natural resources, youth employment, corruption and elections.
Citing elections as one of the most important on the agenda, Mrs. Sirleaf says in a time like this it is important to discuss because when campaign starts, everyone will be busy and there won’t be an opportunity to discuss in an environment that is not political.
In the resolution, the media here commit to uphold the values of the journalism profession that gives an effective check on society through reporting social, economic, political issues and other things that are of national interest while keeping government in check on its commitment to citizens.
They also commit to acknowledge the gains made by the Sirleaf administration in promoting press freedom and open society by committing to abolish all anti – media and free speech laws.
The government has on the other hand pledged in the resolution to work with relevant stakeholders to hasten the passage of laws that will decriminalize anti – free speech here.
The government also affirms that it has no institutional policy to clamp down on the media, but will continue to be supportive of free and independent media operating in Liberia as well as strengthening of the capacity of media institutions.
Government has however urged the Press Union of Liberia to continue working with its members in upholding ethical standards for the common good of the country in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the country, especially in the electoral process.
Information Minister Eugene Nagbe describes the retreat as very successful, having earlier expressed hope for a mechanism to be put in place in order to cooperate in the interest of nation.
Broadcast journalist Aaron Kollie commends President Sirleaf for her support to a flourishing media in Liberia, though he acknowledges “occasional rough shoulders”. He praises Mrs. Sirleaf for signing the Table Mountain Declaration and the Freedom of Information Act.
Press Union president Mr. Charles Cuffey describes the interaction with Mrs. Sirleaf as rewarding, saying she played a leadership role that he wants others coming after her to emulate.
Mr. Cuffey, however, pleads with Mrs. Sirleaf to ensure that all anti – media laws that would create conditions for journalists to be manhandled are repealed in the remaining months to the expiry of her administration. Mrs. Sirleaf has already given her commitment, but wants the media to view what is being worked on to affirm that it is up to international standard.
By Winston W. Parley