There is no gainsaying the fact that the PUL is often seen as a non-partisan vehicle through which Liberian journalists, without fear or favor, can responsibly exercise their constitutional franchise. Liberian journalists, cognizant of the need to undercut undue government influence within the Union, have always felt wary of electing officers closely aligned with State media. During the Charles Taylor era, Mr. Sylvester Vaanii Paasewe of the then LCN vied for the PUL presidential post, but lost primarily because the media feared that electing him would have meant silencing critical media voices during a period marked by extreme self censorship. During that time, it was rumored that Mr. Taylor had unleashed his money war chest to influence the PUL elections. But the results proved contrary.
Today, more than a decade past the Taylor era, and with the institutionalization of democratic governance, the Liberian media seems on an upward trajectory towards protecting freedom of speech and expression. Indeed, through our concerted efforts, Liberia has a Freedom of Information Law that now compels public officials and entities to make public pertinent information that affect the lives of citizens of this great country.
The past gains notwithstanding, the election of Mr. Cuffy, who is an employee of state radio, is seen by some critics as an unwelcome development that could undermine the PUL stance as a non-partisan, critical voice in Liberia’s media landscape.
For us, we urge all journalists and media institutions to work along with the Cuffy administration to make the PUL more critical and responsible. We want to see under this administration efforts to weed out mercenary journalism. We want the Cuffy administration to institute mechanisms that will ensure journalists in Liberia receive equal pay for their hard labor. We want the Cuffy administration to remain engaged with government in finding ways to strengthen the hands of the Independent Information Commission such that government functionaries can respect information requests from citizens and journalists, and actualize the mandate of the Commission.
As credible media institutions and individuals journalists, we will support the Cuffy administration. But we are watching keenly that they don’t sell our collective soul to the highest bidder.