The Press Union of Liberia is marking the 46th year of its founding this weekend. Union President Peter Quaqua told VOA part of the activities includes a speech by an American educator.
“We have a guest from the (United) States, currently in Monrovia, a professor of communications and journalism, Professor Mitchell Land, who happens to be the Dean of the Mayborn School of Journalism at North Texas University. He’s in Liberia with us conducting lectures on journalism toward the election period. He will deliver a speech on the theme of the celebration ‘Media Integrity for Peaceful Election,’” he said.
Quaqua said the speech will be followed by a panel discussion involving politicians and civil society leaders on the topic The Road to 2011: Prospects for Enhancing the Democratic Space in Liberia.
He said the Press Union of Liberia has made tremendous progress over the years.
“The Union has come of age. Our colleagues, who started this project, went through pain and pleasure to bring it to where it is. You’re probably aware that we had a situation here where some journalists were sent to jail following which the rest of their colleagues decided that they would put together the Press Union to defend and protect the rights of journalists. Today, we have a space that a lot of people can speak of as being relatively safe. And, I think that is a credit to the Press Union,” he said.
Quaqua said the Liberian media has been gradually developing from one level to the other.
For instance, he said, while there was just one printing press at the founding of the Press Union, today Liberia has many printing houses that are printing the country’s growing daily newspaper industry.
“There are a lot of things that the Union has been involved with, key among those is the protection of the rights of people to express their opinions. We think that the Union should be credited for the extent of freedom of expression and democracy that Liberians enjoy today,” Quaqua said.
Quaqua cautioned his fellow journalists against complacency because he said politicians and others with money have vested interests to protect.
He said one of the challenges facing the Liberian Press Union is making sure that journalists remain ethical, as well as improving their economic situation.
“We are aware of those challenges and efforts are being made at different levels with different media houses to dignify the labor of journalists in this country,” he said.
Quaqua said the Press Union has been engaging the media owners to improve the income of their journalists.
“The media owners are responsible. Those are the employers of the journalists. We’ve been engaging them. We’ve been talking about the dismal salaries that journalists are receiving, and I’m sure that a couple of them are beginning to take action to ensure that those situations are corrected because they are affecting the performance of the media in a very serious way,” Quaqua said.