MONROVIA – On the heels of voting day and at the advent of the official campaign period for Liberia’s 2023 elections, Press Union of Liberia (PUL) former president, and ex-president of the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), Mr. Peter Quaqua, has cautioned Liberian journalists of the importance of their role in the 10 October electoral processes.
In an article recently disseminated largely via social media, Mr. Quaqua, himself a longtime Liberian journalist, reminded his counterparts that the world over, it’s expected of journalists to provide impartial information regarding electoral processes and information about politicians seeking public office.
While Quaqua shares the undeniable view that journalists are individuals, who are citizens first, with choices and interests in the betterment of whatever society they may find themselves, he reminded Liberian journalists that those who ply the noble profession are restrained by ethics.
“A journalist is not an ordinary citizen in the sense of the size of his/her role in enhancing democratic development,” the PUL former president informed his colleagues in Liberia, adding, “An independent and professional press is the spine of democracy – providing the space for a healthy debate. That’s why press freedom is featured in most (if not all) democratic and human rights instruments. The people (voters) for whom democracy is championed, depend on the free press to make informed decisions. That’s why the media is the public trust.”
Quaqua, who disclosed that he’s commencing a series on the significance of Liberian journalists’ role in the 2023 electoral processes, divulged that he would be doing so, hoping to profer to his Liberian colleagues actively practicing the journalism craft during the electoral period, some advice or tips, as Liberia continues what he termed the critical journey to the October 10 elections.
Addressing Liberian journalists, who he classified as those still keen and committed to the principles of journalism in the true sense of the word, and not those who are just performing acts of journalism, the former president of WAJA enjoined his colleagues that they have a duty to support and promote free and fair elections by giving space to the diversity of opinions in a free and fair manner too.
“Often, there are calls for peaceful elections. But seldom does the safety of journalists make it on the agenda for discussions till journalists are targeted,” Quaqua observed, noting, “I am therefore doing this with the safety of journalists in mind, but also to remind you about your responsibilities in these moments of high political contestation.”
He then reminded Liberian journalists giving coverage to the 2023 electoral processes, to among others, not wear any identifiable paraphernalia belonging to any political party or candidate; refrain from acting as spokespersons for any party or candidate; and that they should avoid what he referred to as the deceptive handling of the facts, which he put bluntly as warning Liberian journalists from indulging in lies and misinformation.
Quaqua also wants Liberian journalists giving coverage to the 2023 elections to present all sides of the story, adding that they must be fair and avoid inserting their personal views in any story.
“Don’t feed on rumors – please counter-check every piece of information; Control your emotions; avoid public arguments and stay above the political fray,” Quaqua further warned.
He called on his colleagues to be careful how they run with claims and wide allegations of elections fraud, adding, “Be careful not to incite hatred and violence against any candidate or party.
“Let your social media activities be consistent with your values as a journalist offline,” Quaqua continued, concluding by cautioning Liberian journalists that may have special assignments with a particular political party or candidate, to be careful not to be seen as what he called embedded journalists.