LIBERIA: Media Code of Conduct for Elections Reporting Being Validated and Adopted

Monrovia, July 18, 2023 (UNDP): The National Elections Commission (NEC) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Monday, July 17, opened a three-day media workshop in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, for the validation and adoption of the Media Code of Conduct for the 2023 General Elections.

When validated, the code of conduct will help prevent or minimize the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech, provide equal voices for candidates, and ensure a level playing field during the electoral process.

Speaking at the opening, the Deputy Executive Director of Programs of NEC, Attorney Nathan Garbie, said the gathering is significant for the professional and ethical coverage of the October 10 General Elections. While recognizing the media’s role in informing and educating the citizenry, Attorney Garbie described the Code of Conduct as a cardinal document that will guide media reportage and conduct during the elections.

The President of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FEJAL), Siatta Scott Johnson, admonished the participants to develop a revised code that all media institutions and practitioners will abide by during the electoral process.

The Executive Director of the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), Malcolm Joseph, reminded the participants of their professional obligation to work towards strengthening democracy and promoting peaceful and credible elections. 

The Political Parties’ Campaign Finance Specialist of UNDP Liberia Electoral Support Project (LESP), Aagon Tingba emphasized that a well-trained and informed media plays a critical role in informing and educating the citizenry on electoral issues in an objective manner.

Journalist Frank Sainworla, Managing Director of Public Trust Media Initiative, urged the participants to pay keen attention to social media during the deliberations. He demanded that social media come under scrutiny due to its growing influence on the population.  

In the run-up to the October elections, UNDP/ LESP, with funding from Sweden, Ireland, and the European Union, provides technical and financial support to NEC to validate the media code.

The code was developed by NEC, in collaboration with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), the Reporters Association of Liberia, and the Female Journalists Association of Liberia, to regulate the conduct of journalists while covering the electoral process. 

The code of conduct is revised and validated during every general election by representatives of the media.

The first phase of the workshop, which will convene from July 17 – 19 brought together 40 managers and senior editors of various media institutions from Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Margibi, Montserrado, Bomi, Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu counties.

The second phase, slated for July 21 to 23, will gather journalists from Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Rivergee, Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, and Sinoe counties. 

The Workshop will highlight topics on the Signs and Dangers of Misinformation; Disinformation, Mal-information, and Hate Speech in the 2023 Elections; and the Structure and Mandate of NEC. Others include Gender Responsive Reporting on Women in Politics, Preventing Conflict Through Professional Reporting, and Hearing and Complaint Procedures.

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