Howbeit the confusing schedule that had obtained, a Table Mountain Declaration was reportedly signed on Saturday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, intended to decriminalize laws supportive of strides by the Liberian media at promoting an unhindered press freedom.
Held under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), in close collaboration with international partners, the Declaration will seek to further smoothen the work of practitioners, aside recent years development that has witnessed the passage by the National Legislature a Freedom of Information (FOIA) and a Whistle Blowers Act.
Indeed laudable of the efforts by the media conglomerate and as already expressed by some media practitioners who appeared on UNMIL Radio on Saturday, including CEMESP Executive Director Mr. Malcolm Joseph and former PUL President James Kiazolu, the Declaration does not however exclude practitioners for committing offenses for which they can be held accountable under the Criminal Law of Liberia.
Viewed already in some quarters as allowing the Liberian media to now place itself in a “Mr. Clean” situation, it does not however necessarily warrant heavy reliance upon the Declaration in view of the many prescriptions provided in the study of Mass Communication that contain what has come into being. Laudable, though, of the efforts thereat, perhaps in underscoring the very important roles of the media, necessitating that its practitioners be held in high esteem, it needs not be over-emphasized that without the media, society is doom thus requiring too that practitioners exhibit high degree of professionalism in setting the right pace within particularly a maturing democratic setting.
Not at all, if this columnist may say, from the boastful formal setting but with wealth of knowledge in the “calling,” in the exact words of the late veteran journalist Mr. Rufus Marmah Darpoh, self-studies over the nearly four decades have however pointed to the need for Mass Communication practitioners/professionals to fully and practically exhibit knowledge at laws, rules, regulations, ethics, performance codes, self-regulation and external pressures in fulfilling their sacred obligations to society.
Although the unacknowledged may not be aware that media practitioners, too, are guided by law in effectuating their sacred responsibilities to society for its own good, they cannot however over-step their boundaries since it would become direct violation of the Principle of the Golden Mean that states that “Too much food and too little food spoils health.”
Better still are the Categorical Imperative that cautions practitioners that “What is right for one is right for all,” least citing the Principle of Utility, Veil of Ignorance and Self-Determination that respectively guide practitioners to yielding to “The greatest benefit for the greatest number, treating without differentiations and not treating people as means to an end.”
Very faulty, though, it has been, in spite the continuing propagation of democratic ideals in society, appearing a strange phenomenon to most in society and is therefore contributing to its abuse, the Declaration, in the personal view of this columnist, may just be seeking to highlight the relevance of the above in which dreadful activities of the past against media practitioners would not be repeated, something that requires constant awareness of the public.
After all, journalists too are humans and not super-humans.