Sunday, August 21, 2011

Liberia 2011 Elections : Heritage & National Chronicle Breach Press Union Code of Ethics

[During the period under review 3rd week of August , the Center observed the following ethical breaches committed by the media since the start of the 2011 Elections campaign season.]

On August 17, the Heritage Newspaper and the National Chronicle published two identical stories they claimed were results of investigation into the conduct of cell phone companies accused of campaign financing.  Cellcom was the principal accused in the stories whose headlines were slightly altered and few words omitted from both stories. However, on closer scrutiny of the publications, it is evident that the story was the product of a single writer.

The August 17, 2011 editions of both papers accused the management of Lonestar, Comium, Libercess and Cellcom cellphone companies of a ploy to unseat President Johnson Sirleaf's administration by bankrolling her opponents in the upcoming elections. It even further averred that similar support was given during the 2005 Elections.

In the entire story, there was not a single attribution or citation of any documentation or source. They ran recitations of events they claimed happened in 2005 without providing substantive facts and details.

The reports were one-sided and failed to reflect the views of the cellphone companies.

In an earlier publication by Heritage Newspaper  on Tuesday, August 16, 2011  (Vol. 16 No. 188) "Cellcom Backs CDC,LP for Presidency", the paper alleged that the management of  CellCom GSM  of  interfering in Liberian politics, by providing financial aid to opposition political parties against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the ensuing 2011 elections.

While frequently using the words investigation, reports, information gathered, there was no name, dates or reference of any sort to support the allegations.

Both stories were carelessly written and appeared to have been implanted in the two papers.

The Liberia Media Centre ( LMC) hopes that these publications would claim the urgent attention of the Press Union of Liberia as such act contravenes Article 13 of the Press Union Code of Conduct which states that: "a journalist should not publish or broadcast false information or unproven allegations".

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