Noble Laureate Leymah Gbowee has described Liberia’s democracy as a pregnant rat democracy, which bites and blows.
“ One day there seems to be real interest in the people especially during elections and another day is total lack of interest.” She said.
She also named corruption, human rights violation, poor health, education system, lack of proper redress for citizens’ concerns, a few of the numerals challenges in Liberia.
Ms. Gbowee said the George Weah led-government has demonstrated lack of interest in prosecuting some cases where the prosecution is needed and also failed to respond to citizens’ concern to burning issues citing the recent rape sage in Liberia.
Outlining more challenges of the George Weah government, the noble laureate said, impunity, entrenched corrupt practices are seen within the system from local vendors, police, the media amongst others. “ We have neglected the rule of law, even worse we’re still stuck in that our time to eat mode.”
Meanwhile, Ms. Gbowee also lashed at the media for doing little to expose all of the ills in Liberian society, but instead, some media practitioners and institutions have turned to be what she calls the barking dog for politicians or those who are providing them financial rewards in society.
“The media again has become a guide dog for the highest biller, in most instances politicians will pay them to distort the true, leaving desperate citizens astray.”
She said, those who are often determined in pitting out the truth are discouraged by their peers. “corruption starts from every corner and the carto is key to the media’s way of doing business.”
She spoke over the weekend at a gathering of journalists at ALJA’s 6th national convention.
The gender advocate said Liberia has seen some very cruel leaders, naming former President Charles Taylor’s era as what she described as “not an easy walk in the park which was marked by military dictator dress as democracy.”
Continued Ms. Gbowee “ Today it is not easy to described what Liberia has in terms of democracy, thanks to Finance Minister Samuel Tweh, I know that they applaud him with the idea of the benevolent dictatorship but for a lack of a better world, I will describe our current governance system as a pregnant rat democracy and this is coined by me, bite and blow,” she said.
Also speaking for the first time at ALJA’s convention was a professor of Minnesota State University, Amy S. Hewitt, who called on the media to flag the issue affecting the disabled and modify storytelling formats for people with disabilities.
Ms. Hewitt said media practitioners mainly in Liberia must be knowledgeable about various conventions their government signed on human rights protection for disabled people and liaise with organizations engaged in working with the disabled community and spotlight their activities.
She named the areas such as mental health, bipolar disorder, anxiety, inclusive disability employment amongst others, which she believed will help empower disable people and improve their lives.
A professor at the University of Liberia Mass Communications department Euriahs Togar, spoked of robust plans by the UL administration to offer specialized training for practising journalists at the entity.
He said such training will enable the Liberians desired of becoming journalists to specialize in particular areas of communications aimed at changing the media landscape in Liberia to meet with the current reality in the world.
On the issue of harassment, Mr Togar said, the constant intimidation against journalists in Liberia by state security is alarming, as he called for more partnership with ALJA and other partners to professionalize the department of communications at the UL.
Caroline Bowah of the Liberia Feminist Forum called on the media to reinforce basic laws that are lacking or compromise in Liberia.
She outlines the issue of corruption, impunity, Rape, Sexual and gender-based violence, compromising cases by family members, issue the media must focus on.
She wants more awareness given on the issues of rape and sexual gender-based violence because about 60 percent of all crimes reported are recorded as Rape and sexual gender-based violence with Rape as the most single cases.
She attributed the high level of poverty, dual legal systems as a factor that create loopholes in the system, citing for an instant, the age for the consent of marriage and hastily called on the media to change their negative stereotyping role of repotting on SGBV issues and create more awareness.
As for veteran journalists James Butty, he identified some challenges in the Liberian media naming, gender disparity, low pay and morals, government interference, lack of proper training and equipment amongst others.
He called on ALJA to lobby for more training, and professional exchanges for Liberian journalists to come in the diaspora for advance training, and told young journalists that the road to professionalism is paved with personal sacrifices.”
Also making remarks at ceremony Cllr. Cyril Jones, a legal minded lawyer recommended the legislation of an independent regulator or commission establish to issue media practitioners and entities licenses.
He wants that body to have the power to reject, suspend their licenses of journalists and media entities who engage in ethical transgressions after proper investigation.
The Associate Professor at the Lewis Arthur Grams School of Law in Liberia questioned why will journalists publish stories that are biased. “Why then is the press or are journalists in Liberia continuously providing to the public some unfounded and unsubstantiated, sensational headlines in stories.”
Cllr. Jones said it is also becoming glaring that politicians are owning media entities and are misusing such entity to abuse others on their platform. “why are politicians who are owners of media houses using and expressing derogatory statement against each other with impunity.”
He said these flaws are happening because the support laws provided in the constitution of Liberia guarantee the right to the free exercise of certain liberty and there is no mechanism for the scrutinizing of professional journalists, media personnel and the proper sanction against those who violate and abuse this civil liberty, respecting the provision of the constitution and consistency with due process of law.
He said the culture of impunity in Liberia with respect to the exercising freedom in the country is our own sense of humour, specifically the lack of political commitment and proper application of the laws in Liberia.
Meanwhile, several other participants including journalists in Liberia called on ALJA to continue supporting media development in Liberia.
They argued that to curtail the lapses in the Liberian media the welfare of journalists must be provided.