Following the recent decision by the Press Union of Liberia’s Elections Commission to reject Ms. Facia B. Harris from contesting the 2019 PUL elections, aspirant Harris has reacted strongly to the “very dangerous decision”, stating that she is exploring all relevant available institutional avenues and social justice mechanisms to have her rights restored.
Reacting to the PUL-EC’s decision which bars her from contesting the presidency “based on her current role as Director of Outreach and Sensitization at the Independent Information Commission (ICC)”, the only female candidate for the PUL presidency said the decision is a gross mischaracterization of the egregious nature and serious misunderstanding on the part of the EC.
Such decision, Ms. Harris averred, requires the domains of interpretation above the EC, which by itself cannot be the law and gospel of a delicate constitutional matter as such.
“I have read the statement by the EC issued on October 25, 2019, a day after my interview, rendering my application and candidature “unsuccessful”. The decision is shocking and unfortunate. Not only that it raises several vexing questions bordering on my constitutional and democratic rights as a legitimate and good-standing member of the PUL – who can vote and be voted upon, but that the EC decision also brings into serious question the legitimate interpretation of the constitution of the PUL as well as the nationally constitutionally-grounded Legislative Act Establishing the Independent Information Commission (IIC),” Harris lamented.
The IIC, Harris stated, as an independent public interest institution, is a brainchild of the PUL.
“Consequently, the relationship between the IIC and the PUL is most closest inseparable, not least the goals of the PUL and IIC to ensure unhindered rights of access and promotion of freedom of information and expression – both by the public and the media – all aimed at engendering democratic governance, transparency and accountability in the public interest. The IIC fully works for media development as the PUL. How and why these very goals advanced by the PUL, independent civil society organizations, international media and freedom of information and expressions institutions do conflict with the very work of the PUL, need to be further understood based on facts than the precipitous opinion of four members of the five member committee of the EC of the PUL” she further disclosed.
Continuing, the lone PUL presidential aspirant said, while it remains a fact that she works for the Independent Information Commission as Director of Outreach and Sensitization – a closest comparable role routinely performed by the President and leadership of the PUL as well as the media community, the IIC is not an ordinary institution and the position of Director of Outreach and Sensitization cannot be reduced by the strike of an ink to a PRO, as done by the EC.
“This is a gross mischaracterization of the egregious nature and serious misunderstanding on the part of the EC. These calls for the domains of interpretation above the EC, which by itself cannot be the law and gospel of a delicate constitutional matter as such,” she stated.
“In consideration of these and the very dangerous decision by the EC, as a law abiding person and in the interest of ensuring that your faith and hopes are not dashed, I am exploring all relevant available institutional avenues, at this stage, to have my rights fully, impartially, and unbiasedly respected as embedded in the PUL constitution and all relevant legal instruments. However, the avenues are not limited to the institutional channels of the PUL but relevant mechanisms of social justice of Liberia. The aim is to ensure that the elections are clean and that rights are not only respected but upheld,” Ms. Harris said.
A long-time media practitioner Ms. Facia Harris became renowned for her stints at UNMIL radio during the heydays of the Liberian peace process. In recent times, Facia became the face of activism strongly opposing sexual and gender-based violence, especially against women and girls.
Despite being a good-standing full member of the PUL, Facia Harris shocked many media practitioners when she threw her hat in the race for the coveted presidency which also has two current officials vying for the same post – incumbent Charles Coffey and Vice President Octavin Williams.
“I threw my hat into the ring for the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Presidency after serious thoughts and consultation with some professional colleagues, many who are gauging their opinions on what they aspire for the Head of our Noble Institution. Many were of the opinion that they need a new breed of leaders with integrity, results-oriented, etc. They believed I possess those characteristics; hence I answered to that call. A call that was clear, ‘Come let us reimage and rebrand the PUL’ and advance a progressive agenda for a genuine institutional reform, credible and independent professionals,” said Harris.
Thanking all of her well-wishers for the outpouring of support, Facia said, “honestly, I am overwhelmed. Be assured that I remain committed to the PUL as a full member. For the good of any sector of our society, we will not hesitate to step forward.”
Since its establishment on September 30, 1964, PUL had fielded only one female president, Madam Elizabeth Hoff, who now heads the Union’s Media Council that arbitrates matters of ethical transgressions and complaints amongst and against media practitioners.
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