My attention has been drawn to several front page stories in the April 2nd, 3rd, and 4th editions of the Frontpage, New Dawn, Chronicle and new Democrat newspapers; and aired on Radio Veritas , Truth FM, Love FM, under various titles relative to the seizure of a camera allegedly belonging to Frontpage newspaper and published on the interne which erroneously cast aspersions on my person and the conduct of my professional duties. t is only appropriate and professional to respond and put the records straight.
As a media professional and a member of the PUL Media Complaints Committee, it is my obligatory to uphold the highest standard s of the handling journalists in Liberia and indeed anywhere in the world.
Let it be on record that my role in the “FrontPage journalist Camera Seizure” saga was to assist a young journalist in professional distress. My intervention ensured that the forcibly seized camera was retrieved and handed back to her. As a matter of fact, Ms Wade Williams, the photographer and journalist that was involved has confirmed to me that she had corrected an earlier erroneous story published by Frontpage on the internet and this statement has affirmed to me how professional journalists conduct business.
Let me use this opportunity to unambiguously clarify that the ethics and ethos of the journalist are sacrosanct and inviolable and no one should breach them, not least, me, a veteran professional, who lives and believes in what the profession represents and protects. Let me assure our colleagues in the media - national and international that these standards shall be maintained at all costs.
Finally, I also encourage those who have found a reason to join issues and cast aspersions to show the utmost restraint. A word to the wise is sssufficient.
Though newspapers reported these events internationally and locally for the past four days, not one of these entities has sought to ascertain the facts. This is my story. I arrived on the scene after the camera incident had occurred and my attention was drawn to it by the loud utterances of Cub reporter Wade Williams, whom I recognized from an earlier interaction with her. I inquired what had happened and she narrated that she was covering the arrival of Dr. George Boley to Liberia and had camped out at the Bureau of Immigration since five o’clock waiting for his arrival. She had taken a photograph when her camera was forcibly taken from her. She could not identify who had seized her camera. As an experienced, senior media practitioner and eminent personality, I offered to intervene to assist her to get her equipment which was returned.
Ms. Williams did not know the person she was sent to cover and had taken a photograph of the wrong person and in alleged violation of warning not to take photographs on the premises of the Immigration Bureau. . I pleaded on her behalf to authorities to return her camera as she was only a journalist doing her job and the seizure of the camera would engender negative publicity, which was not necessary
After some deliberations, an officer, who identified himself as the Public Relations person of the Bureau of Immigration, had a camera which he returned Ms. Williams in my presence. When I left the immigration office, Ms Williams and her Australian journalist friend Claire were interviewing Dr. Boley’s lawyer, Counselor Laveli Supuwood.
On Saturday, I got a call from James Butty of the VOA who narrated a false version of the story reportedly told him by the editor of the Frontpage newspaper. I called the front page three times to clarify the story but got not answer the call. I then got a number for Ms. Williams, called and spoke to her. She said she had corrected an earlier version of the story which was published on the internet and the Monday April 2nd edition of the Frontpage newspaper would carry the corrected version of the incident.
Instead, the Frontpage was joined by several radio stations and three other newspapers, the Chronicle, New Dawn and Democrat who had published false and slanderous articles without applying the elementary principles of journalism of seeking to ascertain the facts or contacting me to provide my side of the story. Interestingly enough, both the Chronicle and New Dawn were papers fined by the Media Complaints Committee, which I chaired, for ethical breaches and defamatory publications against the French Ambassador accredited to Monrovia.
The self styled Reporters Association also joined the fray, in total disregard for professional and ethical practices, by issuing a statement on the basis of false reports in the media. All of these entities carried different versions of the one incident which are continuously changing for either commercial or other unethical reasons.
This chained of events only deepens my understanding of the magnitude of the problems untrained and unscrupulous persons, masquerading as journalists, can cause our society and well meaning individuals therein. This strengthens our resolve to continue to provide adequate training for media users across the length and breadth of Liberia and work to ensure the highest standards of Journalism in Liberia. The reverse of which is to allow untrained and unprofessional persons to use the media available to them to plunge us into chaos.