CEMESP Holds Media Forum Under the Theme, “National Forum on Media Professionalism and Safety of Journalists in Liberia

Ahead of the upcoming October 10 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia, the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, (CEMESP),  Tuesday, June 15, 2023, held a one-day forum aimed at highlighting harassments and brutality meted out against journalists in the line of their professional duties and what safety measures can be employed to protect journalists especially as Liberia goes towards elections this year.

The forum which is part of CEMESP’s efforts aimed at preparing the media ahead of the October election this year, comes in the wake of  reports of harassments, brutalization and, sometimes, arbitrary arrest and detention of  journalists, especially while carrying out their professional and statutory duties.

Liberia has made significant strides towards fostering integrity, good governance and respect for human rights, since the end of the civil war in 2003. However, much still needs to be done towards ensuring safety for journalists while they are performing their reportorial functions as members of the fourth estate.

Stories about harassments, brutalization, and detention of journalists continue to be reported in the local news. Giving an overview of the program, CEMESP’s Executive Director, Malcolm Joseph, said the forum was established to achieve two basic objectives, including highlighting physical attacks against journalists, especially those covering politics, and also spotlighting growing concerns of the lowering media professionalism standards and disregard for ethics in the media.

In his overview the CEMESP boss provided a list of infringements meted out against journalists in the last three years, most of which were never investigated and with no punitive actions on the part of duty bearers.   

Also delivering the keynote address at the one-day forum, Senate Committee Chair on Information and Broadcasting,  Rivergee County Senator Jonathan Boy-Charles Sogbie started by saying that though he has no background in media, he has great respect for the profession. Speaking on the topic, Reporting Responsibly, Senator Sogbie, said the coming days leading to October 10 elections are going to be tense, but journalists need to stand out by reporting responsibly and professionally, adding “disinformation and misinformation are issues we all must consider seriously.”

He highlighted the critical role of the media, encouraging journalists to always first considering the consequences of a story and the aftermath before reporting. Sen. Sogbie charged members of the fourth estate to carry themselves honorably, adding that it is better to seek appropriate information rather than speculating.

Meanwhile, the one-day forum brought together journalists, key representatives of media associations, national security, representatives of Civil Society Organizations, Government officials among others.  It is part of activities being implemented by the Media Foundation for West Africa in partnership with CEMESP under the Enhancing Press Freedom, Women’s Digital Rights and Accountable Governance project. The project is supported by the Dutch Foreign Ministry (through the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana), and is being implemented in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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