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Thursday, May 23, 2024

WELCOMING “THE CLOSING ARGUMENT’ TO LIBERIA’S EMERGING PLURALISTIC MEDIA SPACE

Date:

A Patriot’s Diary

 With Ekena Nyankun Juahgbe-Droh Wesley

Until the governors are held accountable, take responsibility for their actions and inactions or perhaps held in check pursuant to their constitutional duties and obligations, the role of governments could be meaningless. In Ghana and other jurisdictions, where students of journalism are schooled into the history of the press, in order to appreciate the role and contributions of pro-independence forebears coupled with the attendant consequences of an aggressive media impact, historians detail accounts of how the press evolved.

The lack of a documented history of how the press in Liberia evolved might be an issue but we cannot lose sight of the critical role it has played in the country’s democratic development processes. Our nascent democracy is alive today because of the toil, sweat and blood of the ink fraternity.

Historically, no blood was shed during the period leading to self-determination in the small West African nation. Simply because there were practically no colonizers as we saw in the case of the French and British or Portuguese.  There was no such thing as agitation as it were – for self-governance.

But when single party rule became the order of the day under the True Whig Party’s hegemony, the struggle for greater inclusion and participation became compelling. Thanks to the likes of Albert Porte, Cllr. Tuan Wureh et al who sacrificed their lives to ensure democracy characterized by majority participation and the rule of law became the tool of governance.

Writing from Paris, France, it was Jefferson who, in a letter to Edward Carrington, sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1786 to 1788, on the importance of a free press to keep the government in check. Jefferson concluded that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”:The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.”

Jefferson added: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

To this very day, Jefferson’s permutation holds a concrete sway. No government; including the most authoritarian, can exist with a free press. Understandably, that is all the justified reasons why the role of the press/media can be regarded as essential and indispensable in the political and social lifeline of any society. Unarguably, the press constitutes the Fourth Estate of the realm; responsible to mirror society in a way and manner that encompass balance, impartial and non-partisan articulation and accentuation of societal issues. The press or media must ostensibly beacon that holistically critical and unbiased voice of the voiceless.

Amid the arguable preponderance of an aggressively vital social media race coupled with a thriving aura of citizen’s journalism, traditional media seem embattled by the trappings of a more technologically competitive outfit that comes along with innovations tucked by up to the minute, fresh and alive presentation of news and analysis.

While media pluralism might theoretically make sense within the governance sphere, it cannot be the ultimate means to an end in our quest towards the end of the road democratic development. News and news-gathering institutions must reflect quality and standards. Such standards must be hinged on ensuring the greater good.

The media or the press cannot be construed as ‘angelic’ by themselves. As watchdogs of the society; there is a compelling need for self-evaluation and doctrine of self-criticism that should be conditioned by upholding ethical standards and the highest quality of professional journalism.   More often than not and for politically naive reasons – actors on social media platforms would choose to issue a disclaimer to the effect that they are not journalists but ‘social commentators.’ Granted they are what they claim to be, commonsense behooves that because they are acting as ‘journalists’ there are rules of engagement that they must adhere to if you may.

With increased participation in Liberia’s new lease of media pluralism, we reserve the right to demand accountability, probity and responsible journalism. The imperative must be to equally and impartially reflect all shades of opinions unreservedly irrespective of color, creed, religious beliefs or political persuasions.

As “The Closing Argument” makes its debut in a politically charged arena, socially divisive hotspot and knowledgeably narrowed environment, especially in an election year, we want to welcome the team to a competitive atmosphere. Let the word go forth that the good people of Liberia and the world are watching. We challenge “The Closing Argument” to be guided by objectivity and a sense of selflessness with a view to putting Liberia first. Welcome folks! Let your work speak for you in a marketplace of ideas as the people become the referees.

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Smart News Liberia is an online news outlet and a product of Smart Media Group Inc. Our website, smartnewsliberia.com, covers a broad spectrum of news content. For inquiries or information, you can reach us at 0777425285 or 0886946925, or email us at smartnewsliberia@gmail.com or info@smartnewsliberia.com.

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