Front Page Comment
The Press Union of Liberia or PUL, an entity fast becoming a political establishment rather than a civil society group which seeks to protect the welfare of practicing journalists and ensure ethical standards Monday July 11, 2011 issued a press release in which it condemned this paper and accused it of practicing “bad journalism”.
It is unfortunate that the PUL Peter Quaqua has taken his public relations for the GAC to another level to fight a proxy battle for the commission and would also repeat what it accuses the NewDawn of.
By his action, we are tempted to believe that Mr. Quaqua is also playing the same role several journalists from other media institutions played before ending up on the GAC’s payroll as Audit Coordinators.
Mr. Quaqua and his likes in their release made reference to statements from the PUL’s two- man “Grievance and Ethics Committee’s” findings. The truth of the matter is that there is no such finding. If Mr. Quaqua and his likes wanted to demonstrate professionalism and not simply trying to use the GAC to get even with Othello B. Garblah, a critic of the PUL and George Barpeen at the NewDawn, he should have first served the entity with the so-called findings, solicit its response before proceeding to issue such a release- but that was never done.
So, what makes the PUL so different from the NewDawn, assuming that the allegation against the paper is correct? The priority given to the said release by several media institutions relative to the GAC speaks volumes, which this paper will address at a later date.
But why are we not surprised at the PUL? This paper received a communication from the PUL sometimes last month, inviting it to a Grievance and Ethics Committee hearings based on a complaint filed by the General Auditing Commission or GAC on grounds that it ran several articles without getting its side of the story.
Amongst the issues raised by the GAC in its complaints were that the paper published “distorted, false and erroneous articles without contacting any authority.”
At that meeting, was Sherman Seequah, Communications Director of the GAC, who doubles as the Program Officer of the PUL as complainant’s representative. The New Dawn was represented by a staff reporter. The PUL Grievance and Ethics Committee was represented by Mr. Peter Quaqua and lecturer Weade Kobbah-Wureh of the University of Liberia Mass Communication Department.
Before any of the parties could explain at the June 4th meeting, Mr. Quaqua had already concluded that the New Dawn erred. His comment was resisted by the representative of this paper, who indicated that there was no need to have a hearing when Mr. Quaqua’s mind was already made up.
What was Quaqua’s motive, his link with the GAC and Political Parties?
Quaqua, from the release appears to have been under pressure to come up with something on behalf of the GAC.
Equally, Mr. Quaqua was not an independent member on the panel of two, so there was not much expected of him in terms of objectivity.
But what else could anyone expect from Mr. Quaqua, a proxy GAC PRO, who goes on issuing unilateral releases in the name of the PUL in such matters like that of the GAC?
For an example, Mr. Quaqua is on record to have defended this same GAC in the past, when he issued a press release on behalf of the Commission, condemning the president’s decision not to renew former Auditor General John Morlu’s contract following the publication of an e-mail purported to have been written by Mr. Morlu.
This paper is on record for condemning Mr. Quaqua’s unilateral statement on behalf of the PUL without consulting members of the hierarchy.
Quaqua’s GAC Connection
Mr. Quaqua’s Program Officer, the man who writes all the proposals for the PUL, Mr. Sherman Seequah is the Communications Officer at the GAC. We are tempted to believe that like other media practitioners who eventually ended-up on the GAC’s payroll as audit coordinators before fully moving to the GAC could be in play here.
For the record, as Program Officer for the PUL, Mr. Seequah writes proposals for the Union. One of such is the National Endowment for Democracy or NED, a US based organization that funds civil society groups around the globe. This group remits US$36, 000 annually to the PUL.
Mr. Seequah, a complainant against the New Dawn newspaper, representing the GAC is the contact person for NED within the PUL. Besides, there are other assistance which the PUL receives with inputs for these proposals coming from Mr. Seequah. OSIWAS, Media Foundation for West Africa, the Free Voice of Netherlands and the International Media Support Group also based in the Netherlands.
So it is not possible that Mr. Quaqua would compromise such a high priority interest at the GAC, for some paper like the New Dawn, managed and run by a critic of the PUL. In fact, Mr. Quaqua also owes Mr. Seequah to keep up that political fraternity, the “Friends of Brumskine,” of which they are a party since 1999 up to present.
The GAC’s Complaint
The GAC has complained of “distorted, false and erroneous…” Contrary to the GAC’s claims, no staff of this paper works at the GAC or has worked at the GAC like several papers and radio stations in town here.
Therefore, it will be totally insane for the GAC to imagine that the documents which were published, along with the articles were either manufactured or distorted.
That, no authority at the GAC were contacted is a figment of imagination by Mr. Seequah, who reporters of this paper encountered on more than three occasions at which time he bluntly dismissed them, saying the issues of salaries were administrative matters.
The PUL Quaqua, in justifying his relationship with the GAC also mentioned the Ernest Maximore’s rejoinder. This paper in as much as it may have some limitations will not go ahead to publish invectives and insults hauled at it in the form of professionalism when the same profession forbids publications of such.
The third paragraph of Mr. Maximore’s rejoinder read: “Othello Garblah must prove where Director Valhum makes more money than CFO Janga. If New Dawn Garblah cannot prove it, then he is on his usual smear campaign sponsored by Medina Wisseh against the GAC and the former Auditor General.”
Mr. Maximore’s request for a proof which was also contained in an article carried by this paper led to the publication of the GAC’s payrolls.
Mr. Maximore further stated in the last paragraph of his rejoinder excerpts of which were paraphrased in the said article read: “The burden of proof is on Garblah to prove the truth of his claim. He indicated that he has the salary of the GAC, which GAC submits to the Ministry of Finance monthly. Manager Jeffrey Yates does not make more money than Director Peterson. In fact, it was Peterson that recommended Yates promotion. Director Valhun does not make more money than CFO.”
So, did Mr. Quaqua expect the NewDawn to publish insults and invectives ranted at it as other media institutions would do when the same profession prohibits that? As gatekeepers, we are under ethical obligations to ensure that such insults and invectives are kept away.
The crust of the matter is that if Mr. Quaqua is to be seen as a truly impartial adjudicator, he is challenged to serve copy of the so-called findings to this paper, detailing those transgressions which could be used as a guide for other media institutions or journalists rather than coming down with a verdict through the press.
To be continued.