Two hundred and sixty-six of the registered members of the Press Union of Liberia have finally elected a new leadership to steer the affairs of the Union for the next three years.
Those elected were Kamara A. Kamara, president; Jallah E. Grayfield, vice president; D. Kaihenneh Sengbe, Secretary General and Daniel Nyankona, Assistant Secretary.
The president-elect, Kamara with a vast knowledge in media development said his endorsement to lead the Union at this time affords him the opportunity to further illustrate his dream and aspiration for free press and media development in the country.
Mr. Kamara said he hopes that his leadership takes the Union a much more proficient and efficient level in terms of breaching those ethical gaps posed by archaic laws and it requires a teamwork therefore he craves to working with every member of the Union adding that he is equally delighted that he could contest with other members of the Union adding that with their courage to contest is a decision worth emulating.
He said he looks forward to improving the welfare of journalists as well as considering the legal and regulatory issues that have kept the media under constant suppression. Mr. Kamara said another issue to look into is the conditions of journalists which need to be improved because they are at the battle line of working on reports of corruption, human rights and other issues deep in the media yet they are underpaid.
Kamara said his leadership will make it a priority to work to derive strategies to improve the working conditions of journalists in terms of their salaries and benefits and that needs the cooperation of teamwork and for that his leadership will work closely with the publishers and other parties.
On the head quarters project, Mr. Kamara said to begin such project is a good initiative and to complete same is even worthy because it will help to sustain the Union adding that it is fundraising for journalists themselves because presently much cannot be demanded because journalists are not making too much as a take-home wage.
“We must reach a common understanding coupled with our own contribution to provide an opportunity that will move development partners to assist in that direction,” he explained. He said since the National Congress was disrupted, the constitution will be discussed and if need be amended at mini congresses as enshrined in the PUL Constitution to enable the Union to be more functional.
The vice president-elect Jallah Grayfield told this paper how the participation of his contenders during the election posed no threats to him and that he was now a happy person having confidence reposed in him to form part of the leadership of the Union for the next three years. He promised to work along with other members as well as the entire leadership to give the Union another face.
Speaking with some of the defeated candidates, Siatta Scott Johnson said the election was good, clear, free and fair. Siatta who contested for the vice president position after losing again three years ago when she contested for the position of Secretary General said as a member of the Union, she will continue to be a due-paying member of the Union and continue to contribute in whatever way possible to lift the Union.
Jacob Parley, another contestant who has also lost in elections two times in succession said he did his best at the just ended debate by providing a very good platform and spoke on issues that would have lifted the Union under his leadership.
He said however, inspite of it all, Liberia has a society that is clouded by misinformed environments and the Union is no exception therefore he believed that most journalists voted under environmental influence. Mr. Parley attributed his defeat to other factors but thanked all members of the Union for participating in the process noting that he is still a contributor to the upliftment of the Union.
Others who contested and lost were Charles Coffey, president, Omecee Johnson, vice president; Octavin William, Secretary General; and Stephen Binda, Assistant Secretary respectively.
Meanwhile, yesterday December 9 marked it exactly one month since the disruption of a constitutional election on the second Saturday of November when members of the PUL again congregated at the Union’s headquarters to vote in new leadership, a process which was said to have been characterized as being free, fair and orderly.
The process should have taken place during its second National Congress on the 7th of November through the 9th but was stalled at the eleventh hour with a court Writ of Injunction filed by two contending aspirants.
The Writ which was served on the premises of the Fair Ground in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County where the event had begun taking place brought the process to an immediate halt with all if not several members of the Union feeling depressed that the ‘watch dog’ of society had been brought to public ridicule by not putting its own house in order.
The protest filed by then aspirant J. Cholo Brooks and now contestant Omecee Johnson among other things informed the Civil Law Court of unfair treatment meted out against them by the PUL Elections Commission by denying them of their right to contest based on protest and other constitutional violations.
Among other things, one of the aggrieved journalists, Brooks, told the court that he was denied based on what the Commission described as ‘inconsistency’ in presenting his academic credentials while Johnson was denied because he was accused of being a Public Relations Officer for Madam Leymah Gbowee’s Foundation, something they denied and contested by their action from the court.
The PUL through its lawyer, requested that court to grant the Union relief by squashing the Writ of Injunction but following arguments to and fro the Presiding Judge of Civil Law Court Boima Kontoe ruled that the fact that the two journalists were debarred from contesting for reasons tantamount to their denial after qualifying them preliminarily, that served as sufficient reasons that the issue cannot be dismissed by the court.
The court sustained the Writ of Injunction and informed the parties that the issue will be adjudicated to its logical end. That too, was a decision that was greeted with serious contentions in favor and against the contending parties.
However, after the intervention of many, including the Publishers’ Association, the Reporters Association as well as individual journalists taking into consideration that December 13 should be the last day for the incumbent leadership to serve the Union constitutionally, the matter was withdrawn from the court, thus paving the way for yesterday’s process.