By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has ended its first mini congress under the leadership of Abdullah Kamara with several documents launched thereby deriving at a communiqué to direct the media national congress in the next two years. The documents include the Open Society of West Africa (OSIWA) project which was launched under the theme Strengthening Media Freedom through Self-regulation and Accountability as well as the Media Gender Policy.
The OSIWA supported document is a one year document that looks at law, justice and human rights issues that will improve and enhance the Liberian media capacity to regulate itself towards promoting freedom of expression in the country.
Its objective is to increase media interest and concerns about ethical transgressions to promote the PUL self-regulation process and garner confidence from the public about media accountability as well as track ethical concerns and actions taken to address them and improve ethical practice in the Liberian media.
At the same time the Gender Policy is designed to give a gender approach to the Liberian media which will guide media institutions and workers to make additional and deliberate efforts to bring women to the core of media practices in the country.
The document which is jointly launched with the Liberia Women Action Committee (LIWOMAC) in partnership with IREX and USAID is targeted towards mainstreaming gender in all information communication and media policy program laws and training as well as take concrete measures to promote equal representation of women in the ownership of and decision making structures of the media.
Further to that, the Gender Policy is also into increasing women’s participation within the media taking into consideration working conditions.
It continued that employment and remuneration must be provided under defined terms of services recognizing decency and equality for both gender and recognize family obligations’ practices and environment as well as adopt measures to promote work opportunities for women among other key issues regarding media contents environment issues and capacity.
Meanwhile the congress attempted to review in-depth the draft standard conditions of services for Liberian journalists known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in the presence of only three media institution owners which created a limitation into the discussion and concluded with the aspect that concerns reporters, editors and support staff while a meeting of managers and media owners will be called to look into more critical issues like salaries and promotion and refund of expenses among others.
Closing the congress, the Assistant Information Minister, Albert Jaja, said when leaders submit their action into scrutiny and call on the PUL to look critically into issues of journalists’ welfare as a priority because the lack of medical insurances in media institutions have been the major causes for which the media lost several of its colleagues because first-hand medication cannot be performed even while on duty and that had led to overdue ailment thereby leaving journalists with protracted illness that eventually led to their deaths.
He said it is the media that should take charge of their discourse; citing the troubling days for the country when the media was branded of taking sides by their reportage while a former PUL president, James Dennis, urged journalists never to rest until their good is better and their better is best.
He called on them to be objective, factual and truthful at all times so that their audience does not think that it is not everything in the media that should be believed.
He said the media landscape is being reshaped again and the public is beginning to judge where to tune or which paper to purchase to see certain things whether negative or proactive thereby eroding public interest.