Liberian journalists, mostly professional media actors and editors of several local dailies, have initiated efforts geared toward the enactment of a domesticated law on the protection of personal data.

The journalists, last Friday, at a local hotel in Sinkor, converged at a roundtable, at an Editors’ forum organized by the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL), under the theme: “Personal Data Privacy and the Liberian Law.”

The President of PAL, NEW DAWN newspaper publisher, Mr. Othello B. Garblah, giving an overview of the last Friday’s roundtable, disclosed that in line with the Publishers Association’s objectives, the forum which he said was the maiden edition of five of such gatherings, was organized in collaboration with Internews, Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), and Local Voices with funding from the European Union, to review ethical practices within the local media, especially regarding personal data privacy, aimed at increasing awareness on data privacy among editors and senior media managers.

The PAL is a conglomerate of over a dozen newspapers and online publications in Liberia, with its main objective being the promotion of social justice, democracy, good governance and peace, as well as the exposure of waste and abuse in the management and use of public resources through investigative reporting and information dissemination aimed at adequately educating the citizenry and residents of happenings in Liberia and rest of the world.

Garblah says goals and objectives of these forums are in sync with that of PAL and are aligned with Internews programs to enhance freedom of expression and information, strengthening media professionalism and quality delivery of information while addressing challenges generated by online disinformation campaigns.

It is also intended, according to the PAL’s President Garblah, that the Editors’ Forums would set the agenda leading to advocacy to prevail on the Government of Liberia enact specific legislation that will address data privacy and protection, as well as advocate for the media industry to pass regulations on personal data privacy.

Two facilitators spoke at the well-attended one-day event, with prolific writer and former journalist, now Councilor-at-law, Adolphus Karnuah speaking on “Personal Data Privacy and the Liberian Law,” while the youthful Managing Director of the Daily Observer Corporation, Mr. Bai G. Best, spoke on the topic: “Data Privacy and the Media.”

Press Union of Liberia (PUL’s) Vice President Daniel Nyakonah, in a remark at the Forum, admonished participants to have a fruitful deliberation that would ensure a domesticated legislation of personal data protection, while Internews’ Liberia Representative, Samukai Konneh expressed his organization’s delight and willingness in working with the Liberian media on such issue of global importance.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of CEMESP, Mr. Malcolm W Joseph, for his part, stressed that in this pervasive digital age, everybody has got right to protection of privacy, but noted that in the face of the intrusive nature of the work journalists do, they sometimes unearth the truth at certain times when ethical standards become so difficult for journalists to apply.

He gave a disclaimer that he’s no proponent of subterfuge means of gathering content, but confessed that sometimes, journalists go the extra miles to gather information.

However, he wants it to be faced beyond the confines of journalism, that journalists themselves can also become victims of the myriads of cyber or online insecurities in their private lives, stating that such might have grave implication for their offline modes of operation.

Mr. Joseph is of the opinion that whilst it is true that the online space has contributed immensely to the improvement of the professional lives of journalists, the criminality that it is feeding off raises concerns and apprehension in protecting human rights.

“What is important to us  is that one way or the other we have been violated online in actions of cyber hacking and bully,” the CEMESP Executive Director emphasized, indicating, “We can be victims of cybercrimes anytime, anywhere, anyhow; so we have to be wary and embrace such conversation passionately.”

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