Independent Media Stakeholders Recuses from PUL’s election Saga Probe
-PUL welcomes decision but…
The Independent Media Stakeholders Committee has resolved to immediately recuse itself from any probe into the recent controversial Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Elective Congress held in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has welcomed the move by the committee stating that the disengagement is prudent to allow the law to take its course in these ongoing electoral disputes.
The 11-member committee was appointed on November 23, 2022, by PUL’s President Mr. Charles Coffey to probe the electoral disagreement resulting from the PUL’s election.
The committee, meeting in an emergency session on Friday, December 9, 2022, affirmed that while it remains open to help resolve the current impasse/stalemate within the PUL, it cannot proceed any further because the issue is in court.
On December 2, 2022, the presiding justice in Chambers of the Supreme Court, Associate Justice Yusuf Kaba mandated the 9th Judicial Circuit Court in Gbarnga, Bong County to resume jurisdiction over the matter. The committee maintains that it is not a parallel court and any action of the committee that centers on mediation and arbitration will have no binding effect over the litigation process.
The committee expressed serious disappointment that since its constitution by the outgoing PUL’s outgoing president Coffey, it has received no clearly defined terms of reference (TOR) on the nature and scope of its work. The committee regrets that its constitution was restricted to a press release without any formal communication to its members that has constrained its work.
The Independent Media Stakeholders Committee says this action on the part of Mr. Coffey was most likely intended to buy time, and undermine the work of the committee, a situation that complicates the matter further.
The committee warned that at a time Liberia is poised for national elections, the PUL must resist all forms of external interferences in its activities as a credible civil society watchdog institution, dedicated to promoting media freedom, justice, democracy and the rule of law.
The committee said it is disturbed that the current wrangling within PUL has serious ramifications for Liberia’s democratic processes that could undermine the moral standing of the PUL as a watchdog organization, dedicated to monitoring ills and shortcomings in society.
The committee is of the view that the matter at hand is by no means trivial, for it is a battle for integrity, the very soul of our beloved and esteemed fraternity of journalist, the Press Union of Liberia.
“We must consider wisely the gravity of what is at stake, determine what is best for the Union and the extent to which we are willing to go to protect and defend it. There should be a clear distinction between our personal grievances and the issues in the elections that threaten the function and purpose of the Press Union of Liberia.” The committee added.
The committee noted that it cannot help but view the matter at hand as a microcosm of the potential disputes that may arise in the upcoming election year on a national scale.
The committee states that it is willing to engage in finding an amicable resolution to the PUL saga, to uphold the integrity of the organization, the Independent Media Stakeholders Committee suggest that both parties submit to the litigation process.
Meanwhile, the Union has applauded the Committee for such a salient initiative and has assured the public that the case will reach its logical conclusion in the court of law.
The PUL dispute resolution committee had accused President Coffey of undermining the works of the committee he constituted to mediate.
In response to the claim the PUL President Coffey undermined the works of the committee he constituted to mediate, President Coffey dismissed the assertion, terming it a complete misrepresentation of the facts associated with the case.
The Leadership of the Union wonders how the President can undercut the activities of the committee at the same time not providing a term of reference for it.
The Media Stakeholders Committee held meetings in the one week stipulated by Associate Justice Yousif Kaba to reconcile the Union but failed to bring both parties together.
The Committee was also charged to bring the parties in the election’s disputes and the congress committee to a settlement, but it only interviewed lawyers of both parties.
The Committee also did not communicate with the Union neither the Justice-in-Chambers on the need for an extension of the one week to allow the mediation to continue.
President Coffey asserted that Madam Boley more than once phoned him to give edicts on the state of the mediation.
Mr. Coffey mentioned that the failure of the committee to achieve the desired peace mediation prompted the seizure of the matter by the Justice in Chambers.
The Leadership of the Union says it regards the blame-shifting of the committee on Mr. Coffey as unhealthy and counterproductive to the spirit of the Union.