GANTA, Nimba – The Press Union of Liberia formally observed its 53rd anniversary in Ganta on September 30, 2017 at the Peace Empire Hotel with a much lower than expected turnout.
According to the president of the Nimba Community Radio Association, Kennedy Domah, the anniversary observed such a poor attendance because of the flurry of political activities in the county that coincided with the program.
“We want to extend our apology to the leadership for experiencing such a poor turnout,” Domah said during a brief welcoming remark. “As you can see, the launch of Rep. [Jeremiah] Koungs’ campaign today and other political activities in the county – journalist are all there attending those activities.”
However, the union’s coordinator in Nimba, Joseph Solo, Jr. of Radio Nimba, attributed the low turnout at the ceremony to poor planning on the part of the PUL’s leadership.
“It was poorly attended because of the way it was planned,” Solo told The Bush Chicken during a phone interview. “People should graduate from considering Monrovia to be Liberia. You make somebody a coordinator, give the person a responsibility – if you make me a coordinator and don’t relate to me, then we will have [a] problem.”
Although Solo was named as co-chair to Hassan Kiawu on the committee responsible for organizing the events, he said the lack of communication and coordination was a factor for the low turnout.
“I was never contacted, even though I was named the co-chair of the committee and we had the first meeting,” he said. “Since we had that meeting, there was no communication up to the day they were coming to Ganta, which was yesterday.”
“Anytime I called them, they will tell me, say, they coming and things like that,” Solo said, although he did not specify the people he contacted.
Solo, who was speaking from Tappita, said he expected such a result from the program due to what he called “lack of proper planning.”
In keeping with the anniversary’s activities, the president of the union, Charles B. Coffey, Jr., delivered his anniversary message. Coffey reminded journalists of the level of press freedom they currently enjoy and called on all journalists to uphold the vision of press freedom which the founders of the union envisioned.
“Today relatively, we have had significant press freedoms as compared to the past,” he said. The PUL boss also called on the National Legislature to speedily pass an existing bill aiming to decriminalize free speech.
“If this bill is not passed, our quest for total press freedom and for journalists to have peace to perform their tasks and foster social justice will not be implemented,” Coffey said.
For her part, the acting deputy chief of party of the Liberia Media Development program, representing Internews, Patmillia Doe Paivey, called on journalists to show high levels of integrity for the journalism profession and have “respect for other [media] colleagues.”
The press union has recently been experiencing a barrage of negative press including a controversy over illegally awarding a contract to construct the union’s government-funded headquarters.
Featured photo by Arrington Ballah