Liberian President George Manneh Weah has recommitted his government’s resolve to protecting the fundamental rights of journalists but urged them to “pluck out the bad apples” from their midst.
Speaking at the media advocacy group Press Union of Liberia’s 2019 Awards Night, the President called on the Union to help cleanse the local media space by yanking out transgressors and persons using the media as a shield to propagate messages that could divide the nation and stall national progress.
“The PUL should adopt self-regulatory mechanisms,” President Weah indicated, and encouraged the umbrella media group to purge “the dangerous rise of unprofessionalism within its ranks. Do not let the bad apples to spoil the bunch.”
In his speech at this year’s event held at the Paynesville City Hall at the weekend, the Liberian leader reminded the Press Union that “there can be no better phenomenon that should judge you into action – than listening to the airwaves, reading the social media that have been inundated with high profanity, fake news, and incitement to violence.”
“Journalists should seek the truth and report it, a primary rule that many of you have dutifully followed, and as a result of this, you’re receiving accolades tonight,” he said, and congratulated the over 40 journalists who bagged awards in a wide range of categories for which they applied.
He acknowledged that the press is a critical part of a fully functioning democracy and should be considered a prominent actor of the country’s political system because it wields great socio-political influence over the population that could benefit the government and the governed.
The Legislature in recent months validated and passed into law the Kamara A. Kamara Act of Press Freedom proffered by the Executive Mansion to decriminalize longstanding speech-related offenses in the government’s quest to promote freedom of expression and of the press.
Notwithstanding, President Weah said it was equally important to understand that the law does not provide immunity to journalists who violate the rights of other citizens; the law shall not prohibit citizens who feel injured from taking advantage of the court system in civil suits.
“In your efforts toward self-regulation, there should be consequences for those who act unprofessionally; those bad apples must be weeded out from your ranks because journalists are required to be responsible citizens and not exempt from the duties to abide by the laws of our country,” President Weah stressed.