PUL President Cries Out On ‘Poor Working Condition Of Journalists – Blames It On Media Owners For Lack Of Incentives

Flash back: PUL President, Charles Cuffey speaking at one of the international forums

The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles B. Cuffey  has expressed disappointment over the level of what he called ‘Poor working condition’ of Liberian journalists , blaming it on media owners for not providing those incentives that would gradually improve the livelihood of their employees.

The PUL President  spoke when he delivered a special statement during the observing of the 55th anniversary of the union held in Gbarnga, Bong County.

Below is the full statement of Mr. Cuffey:

Our Keynote Speaker, Hon Prince Karmue  Moye, deputy  speaker  of  the  house  of  representatives,

Madam Superintendent and officials of Bong County,

Our development partners, representative of  internews, other platform  guests, Officials of  government, officials of  the Press Union  of Liberia, Madam siatta Scott Johnson, President Female Journalists Association( Feja),other  officials of  various PUL auxiliaries and members of  the Press Union  of Liberia, representatives  of  various civil society and religious  institutions,  ladies  and gentlemen.

We are   celebrating our  55th anniversary in Gbarnga City Bong  County as part of the press union decentralization exercise . The  observance  as  you are aware is  in continuation of  the celebration of  strives made by esteemed journalists to commence  advocacy for free expression, freedom of  the press and  journalists’ safety which  eventually led to  the establishment of  the PUL  on September 30 1964.

Though, the Union was  basically, set up to  advocate for  press  freedom and  the protection  of  journalists, it  has  since grown to a vibrant pro-democracy group that  has  championed not  only media  matters, but issues affecting the democratic governance of the state, social justice and human rights. Freedom of  expression is  a   fundamental  right,  enshrined  in  the Universal  Declaration of Human  rights.

So, we are celebrating  on  the  Theme : Strengthening Reporting on Trafficking in Persons  and Improving Media Regulation. We held two days  symposium on  trafficking in persons and the LTA draft  bill.

The symposium was  intended  to enhance the  capacity of  the media on  reporting on trafficking  in  persons, and action leading  to adopting of  the draft LTA FM regulation and end  confusion in broadcast . It  was  also aimed  at creating awareness on trafficking in persons ( mainly rural communities since a number of  community radio journalists from across the country attended the ceremony.

Mr keynote speaker, fellow colleagues,  there is  a  serious  situation  creeping in our media landscape that  requires our  collective  responsibility to  safely protect the  sanctity of the  media. If  nothing  is  done urgently to address this  issue it  will  continue to  undermine professionalism,  peace and stability in our  country .We  must  act  now  and not  tomorrow.  This  is very grave  and is  about  the  misuse of  the  media by  some individuals. The  gravity is  the issue of political  ownership of  the  media in Liberia. It  is  rapidly leaving professional journalists without a profession.

Some people  with  political interest are deciding content of  their  radios daily to meet their goals at  the detriment of  societal cohesion.

Political ownership of  the media  institutions concerned  is hurting professional journalism and downgrading its standing as a major actor in democracy and  governance. My esteemed colleagues, prior  to the  advent of the political ownership of  the media in Liberia,  the  journalism profession was  highly respected  and enviable. But for now in Liberia  journalists are  now pawn in the political rivalry that is  running the  media amok at  the service of politicians.  What  is most definitely dangerous is  the insensitivity by  two radio stations to  the  plight of  the  Liberian people. Roots FM radio and Freedom FM radio owned by Henry Costa and Deputy National security Agency  Director (NSA)  San T Sanyon  respectively are involved in acts that  are inconsistent with our PUL code of  conduct and ethics. They are  increasingly using hate messages on  their platforms. In recent times, particularly the 20th of September  2019  two employees of Freedom FM  radio  owned  and operated by NSA deputy director San T Sanyon used  insults  or  profanities during the radio  station  morning show  and they continue to insult and broadcast hate messages on the radio.  Effort  by  the PUL  to  make  them conform  to ethical standards  and  good  journalism  is proving fruitless.



We have  communicated with the Ministry  of Information and  the Liberia Telecommunication Authority  (LTA)  to take  action against  them in line with the organic law  of  Liberia since  they gave them the authority to operate in  the country. Our  intention  is  for  them to conform to good media practice and  desist from  unprofessional behavior . The  PUL  is  of  the conviction  that LTA and MICAT will help greatly in  the process. Maybe, these institutions are  not respecting the PUL’s  call for  good  journalism and respect  for societal norms because it  did not give  them license or  permit to  operate .

We are also urging  all power holders in  the  country to join the union in soliciting ideas aimed at  ending the  escalating wave of  invectives and profanities characterizing radio broadcast throughout country.

Other  issue of  concern  is  the unfavorable economic  environment of Liberia. The  appalling economic  situation in  the  country is  greatly affecting the media thus worsening economic condition of  journalists  and  media  workers in Liberia.

The current working conditions of Journalists in Liberia represent a  major impediment to their capacity to perform in line with  professional obligations.

Thus, the  PUL as a  professional organization though with the limited capacity is designing sustainable, progressive programs of action on  behalf  of their  members, which requires immediate and direct interventions of  stakeholders if  realistic prospects for  meaningful change were to be realized.

Most journalists working in the country have no job security . They are deprived from any form  of social security, health benefits, or other forms of  social welfare  benefits, while some are owed  numerous months of  salaries. Closely  related  to  this  is  the fact that many Liberian journalists, especially those in  the  lower cadre,  who  work as reporters,  are poorly paid and ill-motivated which partly explains the  poor  performances  of these journalists and most importantly,  the continuous disregard of  the ethics of  the profession.

In  the light  of  these  critical issues,  there has  been a clarion call by  the IFJ Africa office and  some  media  organizations in  the  continent,  for  collective bargaining standard  framework that  will to some extent determine what journalists are paid, their  conditions  of  service in  relation to  the qualifications  that they have and  their level of  professionalism.

The  Press Union  of Liberia (PUL) is in  the forefront of  this crucial course and  is confident that the desired results will come sooner rather than later. Already, there have been great strides in  this  regard in  the sub-regions. Standard collective agreements have been adopted in  West and Central Africa, while collective  negotiations  have  been  launched at  country  levels.

However, there  have been Herculean task ahead. Most media owners and executives have often not been committed to any  form of collective bargaining agreements for their workers,  while government have  not also been able to provide  the  necessary support to back such  agreement. To address the economic  hardship of  our  county,  the entire economy  of  Liberia needs to  be revised . Salary  harmonization and salary cuts of  government officials  including  the legislature  will not fully address the economic situation  of  our  country. Though the salary cut is good,the  money from  the deduction cannot overturn the consequences posed by  the economic  crisis. Government needs to also embark on  other  creative ways to  ensure economic  viability in  the country.

Journalists Safety  Fund

There is no journalists  safety fund in Liberia. Though, the situation in Liberia  is much better than other African countries where  journalists are  often  arbitrarily arrested,  forcefully detained and  held incommunicado, physically attacked and  beaten,  their equipment  confiscated and sometimes willfully damaged and  to  some extent physically tortured and  their families intimidated and threatened.

In  this  regard,  there is  a need for safety fund  to be  administered by the PUL. The safety fund,  will  provide assistance to  journalists who  found themselves in conflict with  the law and  are being maltreated or  persecuted or  are in  danger or  in exile due to  their  work. If  instituted the journalists safety fund in Liberia will also  enable  the PUL  give assistance to journalists who are ill,  deemed to be  in conflict  with  the law  in   the discharge of their duty, or who are victims of accidents or  other forms of  natural disasters. The fund will do a lot to pay for  the medical bills of  journalists who  may be sick or   attacked in  areas of  the country as well as  to evacuate  them from county where there lives may be seem to be in danger.

Again let  me thank God for  successful 55th  anniversary  celebration. I also say  thank you to all media  workers  for standing  the test  of  time. Also, to  the  people of  Bong  county for  honoring our  invitation to celebrate with us. Let  us,  as  journalists remain  professional as  a professional body. True journalism requires proper deportment and service to  the public and  not black mailing to mislead  the  people.

Happy 55th anniversary and may God  richly, continuously bless us  all.

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