Monrovia, May 6, 2015: The latest threats and attempts to bully the In Profile Daily Newspaper by the Government of Liberia, simply for disagreeing on critical issues, present a distaste for civil disagreement.
The further and subtle attempt to buy the Press Union of Liberia into it is unfortunately so ludicrous, and shows that those managing the government communications programs are determined to strengthen confrontation with the media.
As to the protests raised by the Ministry of Information and their declarations, the Press Union of Liberia likes to note the following:
1. The issuance of a press release by government or any other body does not guarantee its publications or broadcast by any media;
2. Every media house has its own editorial policy and therefore has the authority to determine whether a release is news worthy 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.
3. 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;
4. 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 Press Union of Liberia has been following media complaints about the government’s attempts to place all adverts under one umbrella, and we had even encouraged media entities to seek adverts from the widest diversity of sources and sectors outside of government.
The latest threats are now a cause for concern, because several media institutions are complaining about being left out/marginalized through the new policy measure, not on account of their limited coverage and infrequency, but for their reportage, disagreements and otherwise.
Regrettably, these threats have the potentials of undermining media independence and sustainability.
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.
These propositions and pronouncements question repeated claims by the government that it believes in free expression and free press, and we therefore demand that the Government of Liberia must – as a matter of policy – refrain from making remarks and taking actions that contradict its expressed positions on making the environment secure for media to thrive.
Finally, the Press Union of Liberia is unequivocal that it can never be a party to any effort whatsoever by government or any other forum to bully the media and undermine press freedom. By all means, our role is to stand up in defense of a free and professional media, and that mandate we will uphold!
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