Veteran Human Rights Lawyer, Cllr. TiawonGongloe has challenged practicing Liberian journalists to commit themselves to promoting press freedom by practicing their profession with honor, dignity and the highest degree of professionalism.
Cllr. Gongloe who outlined some complaints from the public against the journalists said one of the complaints is that some journalists rush to report stories without taking time to check the facts.
He said the question in this case, is why a journalist should rush to give information to the public about somebody, something or some event, when the facts have not been verified by him or her.
Cllr. Gongloe said the general excuse that some journalists give is that time is important to every story and if too much time is taken, a story may lose its importance and relevance or becomes history instead of being a current event.
The Lawyer noted, “One frequent excuse that some journalists give, also, is that efforts to interview the person is that the story is about or any eye-witness to the specific event of interest proves futile.”
He said in such a case, there is no story to inform the public about, because it would be unfair to the person the story is about and the listening or reading public.
Cllr. Gongloe said the danger in rushing to publish any information that has not been verified to be true is that, besides the fact that it has the potential to subject the journalists and the media which publishes such an untrue story to unnecessary litigations and the frequency of publishing untrue stories has the potential of gradually eroding public confidence in such journalists and the medium through which such untrue stories are published.
Cllr. Gongloe said the second complaint that has been voiced by the public is that there is evolving some level of mercenary journalism-a situation whereby some journalists are paid by competitors in business or politics to write untrue stories about their opponents.
He stressed that this type of conduct undermines public confidence in the journalism profession and press freedom.
Touching on the third complaint, the Lawyer said he heard that some journalists who conduct interviews do not research on the topic and the background of the persons that they intend to interview.
Cllr. Gongloe pointed out that the result is that such uninformed journalists do not ask the appropriate questions that could provide an opportunity for the interviewee to give adequate information to the public on the subject of the interview.
He said it is wrong for a journalist to conduct an interview based on hearsay or very scanty information.
Cllr. Gongloe said the fourth complaint that some members of the public have against Liberian journalists is that some journalists are not spending time to verify words that they use to communicate with the public in terms of spelling and usage.
Cllr. Gongloe reflected that with the existence of the Freedom of Information Law in Liberia and a very effective Information Commissioner, journalists should make all efforts to seek the truth before giving information to the public.
Cllr. Gongloe, speaking at the Annual Award and Dinner of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) held last week Friday in Paynesville said the challenge for all journalists, given the past, is to practice their profession in a manner that promotes greater freedom of the press and to make the people to resist any attempt by government to hinder press freedom.
Speaking on the topic: “The Role of the Press in Promoting and Protecting Press Freedom in Liberia” Cllr. Gongloe said if for poor journalism the Liberian people would call upon the Government of Liberia to close the media space, it will be a herculean task for the press and lovers of press freedom to reopen it.
“Therefore, I call upon all practicing Liberian journalists to commit themselves to promoting press freedom by practicing their profession with honor, dignity and the highest degree of professionalism,” Cllr. Gongloe stressed.
Some of the award winners include Front Page Africa, Newspaper of the Year; Mae Azango, Journalist of the Year; LBS Darius Zinnah and Moses KolieGarzaewu won Legislative and Sports Reporters of the Year respectively.
Power TV won Television of the Year; Radio Veritas, Radio Station of the Year, Radio Voinjama; Community Radio of the Year among others.