The Press Union of Liberia has fined the West Africa Info Post Newspaper LS$2,500 and ordered the paper to immediately publish a public apology after it was held liable for breach of the Union’s Code of Conduct and professional ethics.
The Union, through its Executive Committee, took the decision after the Grievance and Ethics Committee investigated a complaint filed by authorities of the Liberia National Police, seeking the PUL’s intervention in an unprofessional publication.
In its March 3, 2015 Edition, the West Africa Info Post reported that authorities of the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia National Police held a secret meeting with the purported girlfriend of the late whistleblower Cllr. Michael Allison. During its investigation, the paper’s Editor told the PUL Grievance and Ethics Committee that it made a “big error.”
The paper erroneously reported that the meeting in question was held on Thursday February 27, 2015 prior to Cllr. Allison’s mysterious death, whereas the whistleblower died on February 13, 2015.
The PUL Grievance and Ethics Committee stated that the paper failed to adhere to fundamental requirements of good Journalism by contradicting itself and not confirming the issue from neither the Police nor the Justice Ministry.
The paper also contradicted itself when it claimed in one paragraph that Allison’s girlfriend appeared at the secret meeting “without being represented by her legal team” whereas in the subsequent paragraph the paper said “she went along with an unidentified lawyer.”
The publication contravenes best ethical practice in Journalism and specifically violates Article 19 of the PUL Code of Conduct and Ethics which states that: “The Journalist should make adequate enquiries and cross-check the facts before publication/broadcast,” while Article 9 states that: “The Journalist should publish correction or rejoinder promptly and give due prominence. An apology should be published whenever appropriate.”
In view of the foregoing and with the gross violations of the Code, the PUL Grievance and Ethics Committee recommended to the Union’s Executive Committee that: West Africa Info Post be fined Two Thousand Five Hundred Liberian Dollars (LD$2,500.00) to be paid to the PUL Finance Office, and that it be accompanied by the publication of an apology to the entities on the front page of your newspaper in your next edition.
Meanwhile, the Grievance and Ethics Committee is probing another complaint against the paper in which it indicated that the Minister of Justice was “immoral.”
The PUL said while it remains restless in the defense of its members and journalism, it will not compromise acts of ethical and professional breaches by any of its individual and institutional members.
“We can assure the public that we will not be blind and will remain balanced in our advocacy for free speech, professional journalism and social justice,” PUL President K. Abdullai Kamara said.