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President Sirleaf Urges Responsibility Among Journalists

In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is unhappy with local media reports. On Wednesday, she questioned their integrity as watchdogs of society. The President spoke at the graduation ceremony of the United Methodist University and said the news media were compromising their professional creditability. VOA reporter Frank Sainworla was in attendance.

“It's important to note that every ounce of press freedom comes with an equal measure of responsibility. Some media houses are doing severe damage to the noble profession of journalism by allowing the pages of their newspapers and the content of their broadcasts to be contaminated by messages that have little or no information or redeeming social value. Some media continue to be agents of character assassination and instruments of blackmail,” the President said.

The address was carried live on local radio. President Sirleaf said a supervisory body is needed to monitor the news media. She noted that there are journalists and media outlets that continue to report in a professional and responsible manner.

“The press should be a mirror of society and the watchdogs of the activities of government and big business. But now a key question for us today is who is watching the watchdogs,” she asked.

The Press Union of Liberia has rejected President Sirleaf’s criticisms. Press Union Secretary General Alphonsus Zeon says the President is intolerant, because Liberian Journalists are not bending to the government. A few months ago, reports of a scuffle between the President’s bodyguards and journalists strained the relationship between the government and the press. Following this incident, President Sirleaf set up a commission to investigate; it has yet to present its findings.

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