The media in Liberia is at another crucial juncture as we are approaching the upcoming elections. The media if not use properly can be a tool to promote conflict.
Already, there are several media institutions sprinkling out with most of them owned by some politicians or people wanting to air their views on their own platform and gain political recognition.
Let it be clear that media play a very essential role and ensure that information vital to the existence, survival and development of constituents of societies.
It is not a platform for hit messages or propaganda channels. The media is vibrant to all society and as such in a developing country like Liberia; we depend on the media and journalists.
It is becoming clear, that some media institutions and media practitioners are accused of promoting parties and castigating people or political institutions who they see as contenders to their political affliction(s).
It is not good for our developing media in Liberia because the media influence the public by sharing news with opinionated views.
Social media platforms are now created, debates and political war are heating up ahead of elections .
Media practitioners must be very professional in discharging their duties when using social media like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.
We witnessed during past elections that some media institutions took side with one political party or individual and such must not repeat itself.
For example, it was an open secret that Truth FM was promoting the Unity Party along with the Liberia Broadcasting System.
Kings FM, Fabric radio amongst others promoted the major opposition political party, Congress for Democratic Change CDC.
Interestingly, some representative and senatorial candidates’ stage managed major talk shows on communities’ stations in their counties.
As for newspapers, most of them were owned or are established by politicians and took side to promote their interest as was reflected in their daily publications during past elections.
The media has power and as such members of the media must be professional and uphold the ethics of their professional code values.
Honestly, I understand that media institutions have editorial policies but it has to go in line with the practice of professionalism.
Empowerment for the media: As we approach elections, it is crucial that training are provided to journalists throughout the country on campaign and elections related issues. Capacity building is essential because we have lots of new breed of emerging journalists.
Civil society organizations, the National Elections Commission, foreign media and partners must prioritize training for the Liberian media. Regular refresher can help media practitioners desist from some of their flaws in their professional career.
Another crucial issue is the provision of equipment to journalists such as computer, recorders, cameras, smartphones, etc. As a journalist, I know how difficult it is to purchase gadgets, least to talk about professional gadgets.
For some reporters it’s difficult to purchase batteries for their equipment; most of the time they shamefully asked their colleagues to assist them, just not to miss out on the news.
Some institutions don’t even care how their reporters struggled to fetch news for their entities but only chill in their cool offices and wait on the information.
It is important that media managers or owners provide equipment to their journalists.
When media practitioners are empower some of these unprofessional attitudes will be curtail in the media. It is worth noting that, the Liberian media like in all country during elections has a crucial role to play aimed at providing a level plan field for all political actors and to also scrutinized those wanting to seek power.
Let this scrutinizing not be seeing as a witch hunt but must be done in accordance with the ethics of journalism and the Press Union code of conduct.
All through my professional career, I learned that the media has both positive and negative influence on people .Elections are the centerpiece of democracy and through elections people can discipline their leaders and ultimately control their nation’s destiny.
In the name of media empowerment, I take this time to appeal to the Canadian journalists for Human rights, Inter news, IREX, Carter Center, United States Government, European Union, UNMIL, ECOWAS, African Union, Mino River Union, amongst others to provide constant refresher for members of the Liberian media.
Also I am calling on Liberian veteran journalists to provide free lecture tips on professional journalism at various media news rooms. Such process I strongly believed will help sharpen the skills of emerging journalists and build a more professional media mainly during this election.
Nathan P. Charles,