PUL Suspends VP For Unethical Breach

The Bush Chicken reporters

MONROVIA, Liberia – The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has suspended its vice president, Jallah Grayfield. This came after a probe into his participation in a bogus “PUL Prestigious Award” ceremony recently.

On Feb 13, Grayfield, along with several other Liberian Journalists, attended a program honoring Ceebee C.D. Barshell with a dubious PUL Prestigious Award as educator of the year. The event was organized by the National Publishers and Broadcasters Association.Abdullai Kamara, the PUL president, said the Union was shocked when it learned about the issuance of a PUL Prestigious Award by a group known as National Publishers and Broadcasters Association of Liberia on Feb. 13.

The Bush Chicken Jallah Grayfield

Jallah Grayfield, Vice President of PUL

Abdullai Kamara, the PUL president, said the Union was shocked when it learned about the issuance of a PUL Prestigious Award by a group known as National Publishers and Broadcasters Association of Liberia on Feb. 13.

Kamara said the Grievance and Ethics Committee immediately launched an investigation into the matter while disassociating itself from the bogus “PUL Prestigious Award.”

Kamara noted the Press Union of Liberia was not involved in the organization of this event and does not grant any such award.

“This event has the [potential] to bring the union into disrepute. We have forthwith gathered available evidence to be shared with the Grievances and Ethics Committee for further scrutiny, investigation and recommendation,” added the PUL president.

On Feb. 17, the Grievance and Ethics Committee chairman, Frank Sainworla, invited Grayfield to an urgent meeting following a complaint to the union’s president.

In his letter to the suspended vice president, Sainworla cited Article 15 Section 1(a) of the PUL constitution. The constitution notes, “The duties of the Grievance and Ethics Committee shall be to enforce the code of ethics of the union, which shall be approved by the membership at a regular meeting to govern the professional conduct of members.” Sainworla said this section of the constitution provided the motivation behind the committee’s investigation of the counterfeit award.

The Bush Chicken Frank Sainworla

Frank Sainworla, chairman of PUL’s Grievance and Ethics Committee/Photo Credit: Zeze Ballah

After two days of thorough investigation, Grayfield was handed a two-week suspension for unethical transgressions on Feb 19. The penalty also required Grayfield to write an open letter of apology to at least 30 local media outlets.

The committee described Grayfield’s action as “misguided” on the count that the PUL does not even recognize the National Publishers and Broadcasters Association. Grayfield’s actions have smeared the PUL’s brand by purporting that the union organized such an award.

The committee wrote to Grayfield, “As a member of the union’s leadership, much more is expected of you to fulfill the spirit and intent of the PUL Code of Conduct and Ethics.”

In the letter, Sainworla gave a detailed account of the penalties, “The Grievance and Ethics Committee is reprimanding you to set example in order to avert future reoccurrence from any other quarter, after investigating the matter.  Therefore, all the members present at the February 18 hearing resolved by the following actions:

  • That you be suspended for two weeks as vice president and member of the PUL effective Monday, February 23, 2015
  • That you write an open letter of apology to the union’s membership and have it syndicated in no less than thirty (30) print and broadcast media outlets, and not excluding your Facebook page and other social media network
  • That content of the letter of apology must first be approved by the chair of the Grievance and Ethics Committee before publication
  • That publication in all 30 media outlets must be completed by February 27, 2015
  • Moreover, that copies of the published letter of apology must be served each member of the Committee.”

The suspended vice president said he would challenge the decision from the committee as he believes he was not given due process. Mr. Grayfield said the PUL needs to hear from all parties before reaching any decision.

Sainworla indicated that the PUL’s Ethics Committee is also probing other members of the union who participated in the bogus award ceremony. The committee warned members that it would not hesitate to crack down on those engaging in actions that undermine the professional integrity and credibility of this entity.

At the same time, the Reporters Association of Liberia (RAL) has also suspended with immediate effect its Secretary General, Boima JV Boima of the organization.

The Bush Chicken Boima JV Boima

Secretary General of RAL, Boima JV Boima

According to the president of RAL, Keith Morris, Boima’s suspension is in connection with his alleged involvement in the controversial award made in the PUL’s name.

The suspended Boima has been asked to submit to an inquiry from a team of RAL members. Morris has constituted a four men team to probe the situation. Those appointed are Festus Poquie, Samuel Diggs, and Samedora Wilson.

Meanwhile, a member of the PUL, Octavin Williams has taken serious exception to the two weeks suspension given to Grayfield.

Williams, the publisher of the Nation Times newspaper, said the action of the suspended PUL vice president amounts to criminality and as such the committee should have handed down a heavier punishment.

The Bush Chicken Octavin Williams

Octavin Williams, publisher of the Nation Times

He pointed out those penalties are meant to serve as deterrents. He added “the penalty should be more than the crime that was committed.”

Williams alleged that the Grievance and Ethics Committee have sold the integrity of the Press Union of Liberia.

Charles Yates contributed to this article. Featured image courtesy of Ken Harper

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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