Special Awards In Pictures

THE LIBERIAN MEDIA in its years of existence has never come this low professionally as it is this electioneering period. Flipping pages of some of the tabloids on the newsstand and even switching to the over twenty radio stations daily is more nauseating than even seeing a pregnant woman disemboweled before your eyes.

This is a trend the media here has adopted that clearly provides a picture of how disturbingly devalued and biased Liberian journalists are, how professionally and ethically unrepresentative they have become in pursuit of egos. We are aware it is a profession which supposed to embody the aspirations of the citizens.

WHILE WE MAY not just subscribe to any form of anti-media sentiments as recent circumstances depict, it is an obligation bequeathed onto us to shed light on the wrong side of the media in these elections, wherein some “journalists” chose to spew lies and deceits, in a tacit approach to the same awkwardly journalistic methodology that led Rwanda to genocide. Hate media, as we have seen during this electioneering period, is as dangerous as ‘caustic soda,’ for which Liberians should not relent to speak out.

BECAUSE OF THE seriousness of the issue or in order to provide the public with an understanding of a journalist is, we bring you this insight as provided by some professors or a committee of journalists who proffered nine ideas or principles about the profession. (1) That “Journalism’s first obligation is to truth. The way to demonstrate this is by thoroughly verifying facts and by letting the public know clearly about the sources of information. (2) That a phrase such as “through a three-month investigation and interviews with 500 sources” is better than “the newspaper has learned.” (3) That its essence is a discipline of verification. “The method is objective, not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment.” (4)That its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover. Independence is a better word than neutrality because it allows for commentary within the media. “While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform – not their devotion to a certain group or outcome,” according to the committee’s list of principles. (5) it must serve as an independent monitor of power. This principle emphasizes the importance of the watchdog role, as set forth by the framers of the Constitution. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise. This public discussion “serves society best when it is informed by facts rather than prejudice and supposition,” according to the list of principles. (6) That it must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. (7) That “Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It should do more than gather an audience or catalogue the important. For its own survival, it must balance what readers know they want with what they cannot anticipate but need.” Its practitioners must keep the news comprehensive and proportional. The principles state: “Journalism is a form of cartography; it creates a map for citizens to navigate society.” (8) That its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience. “Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility – a moral compass. Each of us must be willing, if fairness and accuracy require, to voice differences with our colleagues, whether in the newsroom or the executive suite,” the principles state. Conspicuously absent from the list are things many news-gatherers hold dear, such as fairness, balance and neutrality. That’s because these concepts are goals, not tools.”

EVERY GOOD TRAINED, and educated journalist here needs to apply or adhere to the principles that guarantee the concept of good journalism. As far as the profession is concerned here in Liberia, it falls short of these ideas and principles as illustrated because “journalists” are placing interest above a profession they subscribe to. What is seen in today’s Liberia, especially during this electioneering period is the complete opposite of journalism, which does not have a place anywhere in the profession, as doing so endangers a society and puts a country on collision course. Journalists cannot use unprofessional means to nurture their closeness, relationship to politicians as the case is now-a-day.

HERE IN LIBERIA, there is little understanding about journalism, so everyone who sits on radio is considered as one, or everyone who puts a recorder to someone’s mouth. It is because of the lack of understanding, real professional journalists – if there are some anyway- who understand the ethics that guide the profession must not hide behind friendship, tribal relations and/or other means. If this country should slip back into mess, it would be because journalists misinformed or took sides other than providing just the platform for the public to decipher the issues.

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