…. Anti-AIDS Media Network host one-day Media/CSOs Dialogue on issues affecting marginalized groups

By: Leila B. Gbati

The Liberian media has been urged to make human rights issues more visible in order to force society to acknowledge them as a problem and to place pressure on policymakers to legislate more friendly laws.

The call was made over the weekend in Monrovia at a one-day media/CSO dialogue engagement on issues affecting key populations and marginalized groups in Liberia organized by the Anti-AIDS Media Network (AAMIN).

In an overview and welcome statement, the Executive Director of AAMIN, Necus Andrews, said the one-day event is to enlighten journalists on how to report on issues affecting marginalized groups in Liberia.

Andrews expressed the expectation that after the one-day dialogue, journalists will have different ideas of how to report on people living with HIV and other health issues and how to go about it in order to avoid misunderstandings in society.

He stressed that journalists should start educating the public that people living with HIV are human beings like any other person, and they too have the right to do what they want instead of shaming and blaming them.

In a remark, the Executive Director of Media AID Foundation, Titus Tokpa said the dialogue is an eye opener for the media on specialize reporting. 

Tokpa told the participants that if they wanted to be successful journalists, they should have a field of specialization.

“So all of you who are invited to this event, if you are attached to various media institutions, we urge that you start to specialize and place emphasis on those sectors that are underreported.” We have been working with Umovement for the past few months and organized the first education media network and we realized that as part of the budget law, education should carry at least 20% of the overall budget and over the last decade that has not happen, so education is underreported and we trained up to 10 journalists who are reporting on that, it is a network that is focusing more on education so in the next 2 years if you follow that project education will have some relevance so that is the same thing AAMIN health reporting people are doing,” he said.

Tokpa also indicated that the event will be a great boost for journalists who decide that every week they will do a story on health, and by doing that gradually they will develop passion and will also have a target audience of those who follow health issues.

Tokpa, on behalf of the Media AID Foundation, expressed great pleasure to be part of the event, stressing that they have worked with AAMIN in so many areas and that AAMIN has provided and continues to provide mentorship training for some of their students in the past, and they think that the event is a great opportunity for young media professionals to tap into.

For her part, the President of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL), Madam Siatta Scott-Johnson, called on journalists to bring human rights issues to the political space during elections and in daily reports.

According to Madam Johnson, human rights issues are issues that journalists should be bringing to the political space because if politicians are violating the rights of the people and journalists don’t see that as an issue, then they have a problem as a media.

Madam Johnson added that Liberian Journalists think that if they don’t report political stories then they are not journalists enough but if they supposed to be the watch dog of the society and the society depends on them for a lot of other things especially when it comes to human rights.

She emphasized that it is good that AAMIN have these discussions especially now because during electoral period a lot of human rights violation goes on when people are distracted and everybody focus is on campaign that is the time people used the political season as a cover-up to violate human rights.

“You know, normally our rights are violated because we don’t have safe drinking water, access to health services, and absolutely nothing as a people, and we in the media ignored them, sang praises, and reported workshop stories.” “We make donation stories headline-worthy while leaving stories like unsafe drinking water and human rights,” she noted.

The FeJAL President recommended that the media make human rights issues more visible because, by doing so, the press forces society to acknowledge it as a problem and to place pressure on policymakers to legislate more human rights-friendly laws; where such legislation already exists, the media can hold stakeholders responsible for enforcing such legislation.

Madam Johnson, in her conclusion, thanked participants for showing up and AAMIN for organizing the event, adding that the discussion should not be the end but a continuous process.

In a panel discussion, the Executive Director of the Liberia Network of Persons Living with HIV, Madam Wokie Cole, said that the role of the media has a lot to play in human rights issues in Liberia.

Madam Cole said if the government sends out information that is not dignified and tries to damage the lives of people living with HIV, it will not be a good reporting standard.

She encouraged journalists to always be attentive when they are covering events, and if they don’t understand what the individual said, they should ask for clarity before reporting the story.

She also mentioned that the media plays key role in reporting on persons with HIV, emphasizing the need for Journalists to use their space to eradicate negative thoughts of HIV because it can now be suppressed and treated without transmission. 

She added that it is important for people to know their HIV status in order to be on treatments for a longer life. 

She further explained that the media must educate the public to avoid shaming and blaming HIV patients for the cause of terrible living conditions in society because it is not their fault as HIV is not only spread sexually.

Anti-AIDS Media Network is an independent, non-profit organization devoted to ensuring the advancement of public understanding of health care and human rights issues in Liberia. Anti-AIDS Media Network is a network of journalists from various media institutions in Liberia advancing accurate and non-judgmental reporting on persons living with various health complications, key populations, marginalized groups including people indeed of Sexual and Reproductive Health AND rights (SRHR) services.

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