Liberia: World Press Freedom Day Orator, Jefferson Koijee, Calls for a Watchdog over the Media

MONROVIA – The orator of this year’s World Press Freedom Day, Mayor Jefferson Koijee, has called for the establishment of a board or commission that would serve as a watchdog over the media.

Speaking at the celebration in Rivergee County, Mayor Koijee said while the media serves as the watchdog of society, it is imperative that there would be an independent body that also brings it to book in instances of ethical transgressions.

“…an independent body, preferably a board or committee, comprising citizens with the moral rectitude and integrity, technical expertise, and experience to serve as a watchdog over the media since the media serves as the watchdog of society,” he said.

He called on the Press Union of Liberia to strengthen its measures on journalists and media practitioners who use their platform purely for political motives in gross disregard for their ethical responsibilities thus compromising their independence.

According to Mayor Koijee, there is a need to ensure that the accreditation process for the establishment of media institutions is not solely controlled by the government as the Press Union of Liberia should conduct a pre-vetting of all requests for accreditation of media institutions and submit outcomes to the responsible government institution for consideration.

At the same time, he believes that the media can a strong partner in the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation report and therefore called on the President to appoint a special TRC Report Board led by the PUL and civil society representatives for the full implementation of the TRC which would eventually lead to the establishment of war and economic crimes court in Liberia.

This year’s World Press Freedom Day was held under the theme “Journalism under Digital Siege”.

The guest speaker noted that the background of the theme pivots on the fundamental principles of press freedom and rekindles the memories of fallen journalists who have lost their lives in the execution of their ethical and reportorial duties, and from other causes. 

He said under the administration of President George Manneh Weah access to online services is not monitored and this has contributed to the flourishing of media freedom in our digital environment.

“Digitalization is a prevailing phenomenon in almost every field of study in today’s world. Its impacts are inescapable. But, it is getting increasingly important to capture its positive and negative aspects to build a digital culture that benefits, rather than hurts and divides institutions and people,” he said.

According to him, Liberia needs to invest more in e-governance, internet-based technologies, and applications in order to help bolster the free flow of information, freedom of expression, and the protection of civil liberties, which will ensure that public sector information is made widely available with no hindrance, bureaucracy or bottlenecks. 

However,  he said while the government has the constitutional responsibility to ensure unbiased and unlimited implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, citizens, too, are under obligation to hold the government and key decision-makers to account, promote good governance, and improve public policy and efficiency, among others.

“We must also invest the needed resources required for a more extensive outreach on the Citizens Guide to the Freedom of Information Act in order to provide a broader sense of belonging to the citizens to know how much right of access they have to information and what appropriate thing(s) citizens can do if they are prevented and denied such access.  Thanks to our international development partners such as USAID, the Carter Center, and IREX for their support to the Citizens’ Guide to the Act,” he said.

He added, “The leadership of President George Manneh Weah has demonstrated the unbridled political will to ensure that journalists and media practitioners are free to speak their minds at all times, on digital platforms, print, and electronic media. The passage of the Kamara Abdullai Kamara Act to decriminalize free speech is a classic example of this commitment – a feat that governments before now could not achieve. To date, there is no record of digital rampaging by Government on the basis of their critical reportage.”

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