The Press Union of Liberia says it will never collaborate with any group to bully the Liberian media. The Union says its comment is in response to the latest threats and attempts to bully the In Profile Daily Newspaper by the Government of Liberia, simply for disagreeing on critical issues, which presents distaste for civil disagreement.
In a press release, PUL says the more and subtle attempt to buy the Press Union of Liberia into the rigmarole is unfortunately so ludicrous, and shows that those managing the government communications programs are determined to strengthen confrontation with the media.
The release says as to the protests raised by the Ministry of Information and its declarations, the Press Union of Liberia likes to note that the issuance of a press release by government or any other body does not guarantee its publications or broadcast by any media house and that every media house has its own editorial policy and therefore the authority to determine whether a release is newsworthy or is a mere PR instrument.
“Disagreeing with any such payment plan for a press release or any other media product should not mean that said media must be censored and threatened”, the Union added.
PUL says making payments (even secretly) for news stories and propaganda pieces is a most difficult thing and ethically disagreeable measure anywhere. This is however not comparable in any way with open and policy directed payments for the publication of press releases or other media products, “We note the concern by the Ministry of Information about the charge for press releases, but we totally disagree with their call for the PUL to take hold of the matter, while in the same breath impose an ultimatum. This cannot lie in good faith.”
However these dispositions, the release added that Press Union of Liberia has been following media complaints about the government’s attempts to place all adverts under one umbrella, and had even encouraged media entities to seek adverts from the widest diversity of sources and sectors outside of government.
The Union said the latest threats are now a cause for concern, because several media institutions are complaining about being left out through the new policy measure, not on account of their limited coverage and infrequency, but for their reportage, disagreements and otherwise.
Furthermore, the PUL is concerned that these issues are coming up, just as journalists are still in the mood of celebrating World Press Freedom Day. It is increasingly becoming a practice by the government to introduce confrontation during such times when journalists are affirming their beliefs in free expression and the media.
“We recall the comments by the former Director of the Executive Protection Service at the 2012 World Press Freedom Day in Buchanan; we also recall the MICAT threats to resuming licensing of media houses at the PUL’s 50th Anniversary, and now the ultimatum for a corporate entity to recant a policy measure, because the government disagrees”, the PUL noted.
Meanwhile, PUL says it is unequivocal that the Union can never be a party to any effort whatsoever by government or any other forum to bully the media and undermine press freedom, saying, “By all means, our role is to stand up in defense of a free and professional media, and that mandate we will uphold!”
By Bridgett Milton – Edited by Jonathan Brown