World Press Freedom Day Statement Press Union of Liberia President, Charles B Coffey, Jr.

Every  year, may 3  is  celebrated as the  fundamental principles of  press freedom to  evaluate press freedom around the  world,to defend the  media from attacks on  their independence and  to  pay tributes to journalists who lost  their lives in  the  exercise of  their  profession. 
The  global  theme of this  year’s,  2020   world  press  freedom  day is  journalism without fear of  favor,  particularly in the  current  Coronavirus  situation. Indeed let journalists workwithout fear or favor.  This  is  a clear  manifestation of  the  critical role  journalists  and media  workers  are playing in  a  democratic environment, mainly  during  this health crisis.

In  recent months the  Liberian media  has been  helping people everywhere  in Liberia to  understand  the  nature and scope  of  the pandemic.
I  congratulate  you  all for  the hard  work, you  are  indeed  playing  a life-saving role by  reporting on  the  public  health issue.
I  again  thank  all  of  you for  providing  facts and  analysis for  holding leaders  in  every sector-accountable and for speaking  truth to  power
In  this regard, we are calling  on the  Liberian  government  to  fully  ensure a  safe and  enabling environment for journalists and  media  workers  so  that  they  can  do  their  work  freely and  without  fear of  reprisals.
On  behalf of my esteem  leadership members of  the  Press Union  of  Liberia PUL,  I wish to use  this  opportunity as  we celebrate  the  World Press Freedom Day to  salute and pay my  respect to  the  brave and  committed journalists of  the world particularly  the  Liberian journalists  and media  workers  who are making  unlimited sacrifices  in  the  face of matchless  challenges caused by  COVID- 19 pandemic.
To  repeat  the  importance of UNESCO’s chosen theme for  this  year’s celebrations   “Journalism without Fear or Favor” PUL   regretfully detests    the dangerous threats and assault by some elements in government, particularly the Solicitor General of  Liberia  and  Deputy Information Minister  for Public  Affairs  who continue  to  flex muscles in an  attempt to  silence critical voices and intimidate the  independent media.
As you are aware, dozens of  journalists were attacked by some state security personnel over the past months while doing their work. A presidential investigative committee set up to probe thebrutality against the journalists in recent times is yet to meet with two resignations thus undermining the credibility of the inquest. while  the Solicitor General and   Deputy  Information  Minister  for Public  Affairs are  using  threats, and other comments capable of intimidating  and  undermining the  right to freedom  of  expression and  of  the  press.
These government officials must respect and accept the role of the media and not use their powers to control and suffocate press freedom and the right to information.
Journalists must not be forcedwheedled or intimidated to either work in situation of fear or favor in the interest of thegovernment of the day,” 
PUL  unequivocally condemns   the  continued  media  freedom  attacks which instill fear in  the  hearts of  journalists who are  working under very appalling conditions . Journalists  must be  allowed to execute their professional duties without  any  form of  intimidation,  and state  actors  must  not use  power  to control and  repress press  freedom.
The  Union  maintains its position that  as  required  by joint  security  and  internationally  acceptable  principles,  journalists  and media  workers  should  use  their  identification  cards  in  the  discharge  of  their respective  duties. I  repeat, all  journalists  should  stay  away from  the  new  directive  of  the  deputy  information  minister  for  public  affairs to print  new  passes because  is  intended  to deny critical  voices in  the  media . PUL  is  not  part and  does  not  support  the issuance of  new passes. On  the  issue  of  the solicitor  general,  the  union also vowed  to  challenge  any illegal closure  of  any  media  institution  in  a  competent  court  of  jurisdiction.
“Journalism matters and it is time to end unfair restrictions and threats of attacks with impunity against journalists.
In  addition  to  the  unnecessary repressions and restrictions, journalists are  regularly endangered  with almost  completeimpunity and their  safety are  relentlessly compromised with little or  no protection accorded  them  which sustains endless safety crisis for poorly remunerated journalists
The  Liberian government is  duty bound to  guarantee the  safety  and security of  journalists and  not for any government official to threaten them in  an  effort to  control the  free  flow of  information or free  ventilation  of the  expression  of  ideas, particularly in  this  difficult period when  the  media  is fighting to defeat the deadly disease of COVID-19.”
We called  on  the Liberian  government  to take   more  meaningful steps to protect  free  flow of  information and challenge the  climate of  impunity which  is  being perpetuated by  the  lack of adequate substantive measures to bring to justice the  perpetrators of  heinous  rights abuses against journalists.
The  leadership of  the Press Union  of  Liberia is  urging all  journalists and  media  workers as  the  watchdog of the  society and  the   “ fourth estate of  the land’’  to encourage freedom  of speech as guaranteed  by the Liberian  constitution,  the  fundamental objectives  contained  in  chapter 15 of  the  constitution and  uphold  the  responsibility of  the government to  the  public.
While  self-regulatory mechanism is  another alternative means of  enforcing professionalism,  the  press Union of  Liberia as the umbrella professional platform of  media practitioners in  the  country encourages its  members and  all journalists  and  media  workers  on  the  importance of  self respect,  discipline and  to  always stand by  the  truth and  justice.
In  recognition of  the urgent need  to enhance the working  condition of  journalists and media  workers in  the country; considering that  there  can  be  no freedom of  expression or  freedom  of  the press where journalists work under  precarious conditions  and are  exposed to  danger,  poverty or fear,  the  press  union calls for  concerted efforts by  all stakeholders  to  enhance salaries,  allowances, pensions and  the general condition of  service  for  media professionals.
Specifically,  we  call on the Liberian  government to note that  journalists like those in  the conflict  situation are daily exposed  to  grave danger as  a result of  their  professional calling.Accordingly,  we  call  for  life  insurance  for  journalists who are  on the  frontline in  the coverage of  the COVID-19 pandemic, provision of  adequate  and  effective personal protection equipment and other  medical  materials to ease the hardships they   daily encounter  while on  their  respective assignments.
It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a need for theLiberian government to intervene to save the media industryfrom collapse.
Media houses continued to be pivotal in the fight against OVID-19 without any support by government at all levels.  This may not continue for long as many media institutions have sounded the alarm that very soon they may fold up due to harsh operating environmentWe should not allow this to happen.
We  call  for a  special media sustainability  fund  for  print and broadcast media so  as to sustain  government’s strategy in  its  fight  to eradicate or  contain the spread of  the coronavirus and  ensure  that  the  fight  against  the  pandemic is  not  put in jeopardy.
It  is feared  that  if the existingcondition continues, the  country may suffer its worse economic recession if not  depression,  which only a  bold and  well   fashioned economic reorganization plan by  government would  mitigate.
As I conclude, May  I urge all of  us,  to be cognizant of  the  fact that we  are affected by the COVID-19 health crisis,  that cruelly has serious consequences on people’s  health, with  thousands of  deaths recorded to date, but also on  all sectors of  the global economy. Many borders are  closed,  thousands of  companies have shut down, many of  our  institutional  members  have  drastically  reduced  staff, as  required by health  protocols.
As trade Unionists, we have a duty to both our members, journalists and media institutions and advise journalists on thebest ways to protect themselves from this pandemic. As  you  are aware, this  health crisis unfortunately,  has consequences on  the  media, the working  conditions of  our  colleagues in  newsrooms,  and  the employment of  journalists.
And  as it is too often the  case, it  is the  vulnerable among  us who  are already paying  the price and who will lose their jobs in the coming days, without any social security  cover nor any salary compensation.
As trade unionists, we stand with those in need among us with all our strength.
We must protect journalists and save the media, working with allmedia institutions within the territorial confines of Liberia.
Certainly, in these difficult and exceptional moments, you can further count on us, elected officials.
At the moment, it is very difficult to know what the future holds, due to this coronavirus. However, rest assured that we will do our utmost best to maintain our operations at a very high level of quality. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Let us never forget that together we are stronger.
Charles B Coffey, Jr
President PUL





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