‘WE ARE NOT PUNCHING BAGS’ – LEGISPOOL’s New President Karmo Vows to Shame Lawmakers In the Habit of Intimidating Journalists
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The new president of the Legislative Press Pool (LEGISPOOL), Henry Karmo has warned that his leadership will not tolerate lawmakers that will use their power to intimidate journalists performing their duties at the Legislature.
In his induction speech, Mr. Karmo, a senior reporter of FrontPage Africa said, while his leadership stands ready to work with the Legislature in serving the interest of the public, it will not shy away from naming and shaming any legislator that will bully or harass journalists.
“As we speak to our colleagues to remain professional, let me also sound this caveat to officials of government including lawmakers. Journalists are not your punching bags. Trust me this leadership will not also relent on naming and shaming lawmakers who will used their powers or positions to intimidate journalists,” he warned.
However, he stressed that his leadership is open to working with the Legislature in the interest the public. He expressed LEGISPOOL’s willingness to propagate a positive image of the Legislature once the positive things are done.
He also thanked the Legislature for its unflinching support since his election and support towards the successful planning and organizing of the induction ceremony.
He said: “We intend to continue this relationship on the basis of mutual respect and collaboration in our separate roles (politicians and Journalists). We respect your roles as the politicians while we expect that you do the same to us as we exercise our roles as Journalists – the watch dogs of the society. We promise to maintain our friendship and or relationship with you lawmakers while maintaining our independence as journalists.”
Earlier, Mr. Karmo cautioned his colleagues against the use of the profession to intimidate or harassed lawmakers for the purpose of extorting money; saying: “You will not get our support. Journalism is not for money making. Go do business if you want to get rich.”
Karmo, who won the election on the promise of rebranding LEGISPOOL, said to achieving this goal starts with every individual member by setting standards and doing what is ethical as watch dogs of the society.
“If we are to be the watch dogs we claim to be, we must strive to set standards that will poetry us as professionals. Colleagues, as journalists covering the Legislature which is considered the first branch of Government, we must work to inform the public about happenings at the Legislature in a professional manner without fear or favor. We must report the truth and nothing but the truth.”
He continues: “We must demand the information needed for public consumption, but to do that, we must first put ourselves in a position that will compel lawmakers to provide the needed information for public consumption. Even if they don’t want to.”
Karmo replaced T. Wholquoi Yeahgar of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS).
The open-air event held in the courtyard of the Capitol was graced by members of the Legislature and the Press Union of Liberia, among others.
Rep. Ivar Jones, of District #2, Margibi County who proxy for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, in his keynote address, called on LEGISPOOL to re-examine itself in its 20 years of existence in order to live up to ideas of its founders. Rep. Jones, Rep. Jones, who serves as Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, said the 54th Legislature supports the promotion of Freedom of Speech and of the Press; evidence is the passage of the act to decriminalize free speech.
He pledged the Legislature’s continued support to LEGISPOOL and called on the press to be objective and truthful in its reportage.
“We are willing and ready to work with the new leadership as was done in the past,” he said.
Report without Fear or Favor
The president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey, performing the induction exercise, called on the new leadership to develop high sense of direction, discipline and honesty in the discharge of its duties. He called on members of the auxiliary to report without fear or favor; nothing, your reportage should not only be balanced. It should also be fair.”
Those inducted along with Karmo include Haji Massaley of Spoon FM/TV as vice president, Agnes Tarr of Capitol FM, secretary-general, Amos Korzawu, of Fortune TV, assistant-secretary-general and OK FM’s Varney Dukuly as financial secretary.
FrontPage Africa’s Managing Publisher, Rodney D. Sieh, who also graced the occasion, called on the leadership to strive for excellence. Mr. Sieh, one of Liberia’s best investigative journalists stated that the failure of LEGISPOOL’s reporters to effectively document how lawmakers vote and extensively report on their activities has been one of their lapses over the years. He then called on the Karmo-led leadership to lead their colleagues in changing the narratives.
He donated several items including computer, printer, recorders and tablets to the new leadership as his contribution towards the furnishing of the association’s office space.
Meanwhile, several officials including Vice President Jewel Horward-Taylor, Speaker Chambers, President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert Chie, Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, Senators Jonathan Boyle Charles Sogbie and J. Gblebo Brown, along with scores of other lawmakers supported the new leadership’s fundraising rally intended to purchase furniture and equipment for its office space at the Capitol Building.