By:Julius K. Kanubah
Throughout his impressive and illuminating journalism career and, his admirable, courageous integrity-oriented leadership roles in social justice activism, Peter Quaqua, has been extremely worried by many issues that have confronted the prolonged underdevelopment of Liberia.
In many of his writings, speeches, lectures and informal discussions, Peter reminds us that the ‘public interest’ is greater than our self-interest or the interest of those we cherished so much, including our friends and financial backers, or even our employers.
In emphasising the ‘public interest’, it is the view of Peter that journalists and those that associate with the institutions of journalism and media must never ever betray the ‘public interest’.
The ‘public interest’ can be difficult to define as a contested concept, but broadly considered, journalists and institutional and organisational arrangements of journalism and media are some of the best sources that define, defend and promote the ‘public interest’. This means, journalists and institutions of journalism and media embody and are constitutive of the ‘public interest’.
In Liberian journalism and media history, at least, since 1964, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has remained the sole legitimate institutional and organisational arrangement for the collective interest of journalists, journalism, media, and communication practitioners, and importantly the beachhead of freedom of speech and expression, and other freedoms such as development, human rights, and good enough governance, etc.
No other arrangement has emerged to directly challenge and attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). There might have been many attempts in the past – whether in conception or in practice – but, none materialised, in earnest. All became an aborted pregnancy or a dead-child, for good or for bad, if we are to use the metaphors of pregnancy and death, while being sensitive to the subjects of pregnancy and death.
During and after some respite of the bloody, devastating Liberian wars, there were talks of ‘journalists behind rebel line’ and talks of ‘journalists in Monrovia’. Generally, ‘behind the rebel line journalists’ were mostly framed to be associated with the effective propaganda networks of warlord Charles Taylor, while the ‘Monrovia journalists’ were associated with what is expected of journalists and journalism.
After the wars and from 2003, this bifurcation of ‘behind rebel line’ and ‘Monrovia’ journalists apparently showed face in the politics of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). To become an official of the PUL and to be seen as a journalist- proper, an association with the ‘behind the rebel line journalists’ tag was conceived seemingly, as dangerous, if not, problematic for the PUL.
Interestingly, however, this politics did not lead anyone to believing there was a need to practically dedicate efforts and resources to delegitimize the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) as our collective interest institutional and organisational arrangement.
Successive Liberian governments and some of their officials and surrogates, especially since President William V.S. Tubman have attempted to challenge and fight the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) through illiberal practices. None has ever succeeded, because the diverse memberships and the publics that the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) represents and embodies have stood tall by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).
Notwithstanding the resilience of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Peter Quaqua has always feared the questions: what happens if people who become and/or became officials and ranking committee members of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) attempt to undermine and delegitimize the Press Union of Liberia (PUL)? And what happens if some kind of arrangement is given birth to, to serve as a counter-movement to the authoritative legitimacy of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL)?
Peter might be shivering that he has lived to see what he has feared in his career and leadership roles. As an inherent institutionalist, Peter is strongly against institutional disloyalty and institutional dissolidarity. As a Quaquan myself, I agree with Peter, because he is correct.
This is why my very good brothers and friends who have given birth to the group they named as Society of Liberian Journalists (SLJ) should not or must not be allowed to see themselves as a counter-movement to undermine and delegitimize the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Plainly, doing so, is institutional disloyalty and institutitional dissolidarity, to which, Peter Quaqua has been absolutely against.
Three of my very close brothers and friends, Festus Poquie, Octavin Williams, and E. Nathaniel Daygbor, have appeared on photos, talkshows and social media platforms as some of the fathers and brains behind the Society of Liberian Journalists (SLJ). As brothers, we have stood tall together in support of Peter Quaqua, although at times, we do take some different paths, including our very initial path of supporting Charles Coffey, after President Peter Quaqua, honourably announced his stepping down from the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) amid debates about what was becoming an apparent “Abdoulaye Wade Third-Term” controversy.
We don’t need a Society of Liberian Journalists (SLJ). We need a Union of Liberian journalists. That Union is the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). No matter our differences with our peers at Press Union of Liberia (PUL), we must not engage in what amounts to institutional disloyalty and institutitional dissolidarity. I felt at pains to have seen my brothers sitting and discussing with an illiberal George Weah surrogate and crony who carries the title of a Deputy Minister. A Festus? An Octavin? A Daygbor? – all sitting with a shameless man that threatens and undermines the very freedoms and institutitional values we aspire to uphold? I am still at pains, my brothers.
Sincerely, we are asking and appealing to all Unionists and to President Peter Quaqua and our leaders to kindly put us back on track: We need robust institutional loyalty and institutitional solidarity as a lifelong commitment, as Peter reminds us.