In a bid to expand the Self-regulatory regime of the Press Union of Liberia, a Special Edition of the Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum was held Monday, May 1, 2017, on the newly dedicated National Media Council.
Monday’s Forum is part of activities aligned with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2017 in Liberia. The commemoration is being held under the theme: Improvement of Legal Operating Environment of the Media to Enhance Truth-telling. Appearing as panelists at the Special Edition of the Blyden Forum, the Chairman of the National Media Council, Rev. J.Emmanuel Z. Bowier said self-regulation plays a key role in preventing external forces from muzzling the press through the use of unfriendly laws. Rev. Bowier intimated that unless journalists submit to self-regulation by living up to professional standards, public respect for the works of journalists could decline rapidly. He said the Code of Ethics for Liberian journalists and the recent launch of the National Media Council provide a good opportunity and the option for media practitioners across Liberia to regulate themselves. Rev. Bowier also called on members of the Press Union of Liberia to help publicize the Code of Ethics so that the public will understand and make informed decision about its relevance. For his part, the Executive Director of the Center for Democratic Governance, Atty. Oscar Bloh expressed fear that the National Media Council could lose its relevance in the absence of any legal frame work to enforce its decisions. Atty. Bloh said while the coming into being of the NMC is a good idea, enforcing its decisions and mandate could be a serious challenge since it does not have the legal backing to ensure compliance. He also called on the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia to make some adjustment in the appeal process of the National Media Council by making the NMC the final group to look into review processes instead of the PUL Leadership Committee. Also speaking, the Executive Director of the Center for Exchange of Intellectual Opinions, Franklin Wesseh, urged Liberian journalists to exercise neutrality in performing their duties. Mr. Wesseh said it was disappointing that some journalists have clearly taken a partisan-role, perhaps for financial gains and jobs ahead of the 2017 Elections. He warned that unless such elements are exposed or punished in line with the PUL Code of Ethics, the respect of media practitioners across Liberia could decline considerably. The Special Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum was held at the YMCA on Crown Hill in Monrovia on the National Media Council, its Relevance and Scope of Duty. The National Media Council is established for the purpose of self-regulating media accountability and professional conduct in Liberia, pursuant to the journalism Code of Ethics. It is the improved successor of the Media Complaints Committee of the PUL. The Council members were selected after a careful vetting process, followed by orientations on the operational framework of the NMC and the Revised Code of Ethics for Liberian Journalists. The Revised Code and the Media Council were adopted at the 3rd Tri-Annual Congress of the Union in Ganta, Nimba County, on November 18, 2016. Among other functions, the Council will undertake appropriate and proactive measures to ensure strict adherence to the highest journalistic standards, including investigation, mediation and settlement of complaints made against or by the press. The celebration of World Press Freedom Day continuous today, Tuesday with a media round table on the State of the Liberian Press which will include the validation of the 2017 Elections Reporting Guide for Liberian Journalists on the Main Campus of the University of Liberia at 12noon.