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OHCHR-Partners Train Journalists, CSOs In Conflict-Sensitive Election Reporting

By Nyema Nma, Jr.
The United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR) and partners have concluded trainings of over 144 persons including journalists, human rights officers, elections workers as well as CSOs in conflict-sensitive and human rights-based approach on election reporting.

Participants in Tubmanburg

The trainings were held in the four regions across the country which include Western Region comprising of Bomi, Cape Mount and Gbapolu Counties; the Southcentral Region of Bassa, River Cess, Margibi and Sinoe Counties; the Northern Region of Lofa, Bong and Nimba Counties and the Southeastern Region of Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Maryland and Grand Kru Counties.

According to the OHCHR human rights officer, Atty. Roosevelt Jayjay, the trainings were held under the Peacebuilding Funded Project on election to promote peaceful electoral environment and community security in Liberia.

Being held under the theme: “Promoting Human Rights and Peaceful Environment” it was organized by the OHCHR in collaboration with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Independent National Commission on Human Rights (INCHR).

Atty. Jayjay informed participants that the UN OHCHR project aims to address the most prominent and underfunded potential triggers of violence and to strengthen response mechanisms so as to make more inclusive, more effective and better coordination, with a view to reducing the likelihood and intensity of violent conflict related to the electoral issues during and after 2023 elections.

He further said the project is in line with Liberia’s International Human Rights obligation and Pillars 3 & 4 of the govt’s medium term Development, the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), through its notably priority on promoting inclusive and peaceful elections, which pounds a well-developed framework for sustaining peace, formulated in accordance with Security Council Resolution 2333 of 2016.

The project seeks to implement series of activities and one of these activities is to train media practitioners on conflict sensitive and human rights-based approaches to election reporting and to promote Human Rights and peaceful electoral environment.

The UN human Rights officer observed that the overall outcome of the program will be a more inclusive, coordinated and effective early warning system and inclusive dialogue at community and political level to reduce violence.

Speaking on behalf of OHCHR Country Representative, Prof. David Dolo informed participants that the key mandate of OHCHR in Liberia is to help the Liberian government ensure that citizens are provided their human rights and to ensure that human rights is mainstreamed in all activities that the government undertakes.

He said election is a very important element of all of the undertakings of government and the processes that lead to it are competitive and emotional, when not managed well could lead to conflict.
“The competition around the world goes along with ego, determination, ambition and over confidence,” the UN human Rights officer said.

He added, “This is where the media comes in with ethics, objectivity, integrity and impartiality to provide factual and credible information to the public.”
“This is why the OHCHR sees it fit to train you in conflict-sensitive reporting on elections,” Mr. Dolo reiterated.

The UN human Rights officer called on participants to take advantage of the training to improve their skills on reporting on election sensitive issues.

Meanwhile, the president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey, charged journalists to remain focus and ethical before, during and after all processes that will lead to the 2023 general and presidential elections in Liberia.

He encouraged journalists to put away their emotions, biasness and party ties and put on their ethical vests and professional values during the elections period.

“Because if journalists are not emotionally fit to handle elections matters, they could lead the country to a chaotic situation that may escalate into violence,” Mr. Coffey cautioned.

The PUL boss called on the media to use its various platforms such as newspaper, radio, television or online to be and remain professional at all time.

“Not only during electioneering that we should be profession, but at all times in our career because this is a noble profession that requires persons with sound moral and ethical values to lift the issues and report the news,” the PUL boss noted.

Mr. Coffey thanked the OHCHR and partners for collaborating with the PUL to train journalists.
The training officer at the National Elections Commission, Atty. James Wallace, provided the timeline and key dates of all election activities in 2023 and called that media practitioners to work with the NEC to ensure that the public is adequately informed on the dates and times of elections activities.

The Peacebuilding Fund Project on Election will support peaceful electoral environment through interventions on conflict prevention and mitigation of widespread insecurity, human rights violation and electoral violence before, during and after the 2023 elections.

The Project also supports a response to actual and precured triggers of electoral violence by consolidating the early warning and early response mechanism, mainstreaming human rights, gender and youth-based intervention, mainly at grassroot level that will promote peace among election workers, political parties and candidates and the electorates.

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