Article 18 of the Liberian Constitution provides that all citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation and shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work. The same Liberian Constitution, under Article54, empowers the President of Liberia to appoint public officials who, in Article 56, serve at her pleasure. The Senate’s consent is also required in these appointments where necessary.
The foregoing constitutional attributes in this editorial are a result of a recent difference expressed by Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor of Bong County and Representative Edwin Snowe of Montserrado County regarding the appointment of a number of journalists by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to various positions in her administration.
During a live radio phone-in program on Monday, August 27, 2012 on Truth FM, senator Taylor and Representative Snowe specifically frowned at the President of Liberia for “giving jobs to journalists employed with Truth FM”, a component of the Renaissance Communication Incorporated ‘owned’ by businessman Musa Bility.
Their assertions followed the latest decision by President Sirleaf to appoint the News Director of RCI, Christopher Sele as Second Deputy Press Secretary to her after a number of his previous bosses, including Patrick Honnah who was named Deputy Director General of the Liberia Broadcasting System a few months ago.
Senator Taylor warned the President against “taking people from truth FM and giving them jobs”, noting that “whenever media personnel get capacitated, they get recruited into government by the President”, something she said, was “good to have new people on board”, but thought she (the President) needed to look elsewhere.
She emphasized the need for the creation of capacity for the media which she referred to as a very important segment of society, suggesting that it was needless to see everybody come to government. Buttressing her argument, Representative Snowe noted, “ I don’t think the President is being fair to Truth FM; apparently, there is something about Truth FM –it’s either she is trying to break it down or whatever”.
According to Snowe, if the media, as ‘X-ray of society, is broken down by presidential appointments, other journalists would be sympathetic toward government policies so as to be attracted to appointment in government.
While Senator Taylor and Representative Snowe may have the right to their opinions, we think their stance against the President’s preferment of the journalists is not only an infringement on their constitutional rights (Article 19), but a complete disservice to their consciences, as well as the promotion and growth of Liberian media personnel.
Such condemnation is indicative of their desire to continuously see Liberian Journalists at the bottom level of the social ladder in Liberia. What the honorable woman and man may fail to understand are, perhaps, the qualities which President Sirleaf saw in these young men that are also required to strengthen government’s information machinery.
Even though they may be aware, the incorporation of these fellows into the public sector provides an opportunity for institutional development, in terms of professional growth at the Renaissance Communications Incorporated. In other words, the departure of those mentioned by Jewel and Snowe gives an opportunity to the young ones in the system to ascend.
Mr. Snowe must be made to further understand that the independent media will always support and promote policies of government that are people-oriented, as well as be critical on those not in the interest of Liberians, Therefore, for Snowe to suggest that “by appointing journalists from Truth FM to positions in the public sector, other journalists would be sympathetic to government policies” is mere and ungrounded politics.
Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor and Representative Edwin Snowe do not need to “cry more than the bereaved (Truth FM Management, Musa Bility or the media at large)”, but better concentrate on crucial national matters before them at the Liberian legislature, including the passage of the Decent Work Bill and Code of Conduct, and refrain from using the media to pursue their personnel agenda.
When they had the opportunity years back as a government/administration at which Jewel was First L:ady of Liberia while Snowe was Son-in-Law off the President and Deputy LPRC Managing Director for Operations, similar decision was taken by former President Charles G. Taylor to appoint a number of journalists from the Liberia Communications Network, including Aaron Kollie (Minister Counselor to Washington D.C) , Arthur Massaquoi (Press Counselor to Brussels) and Varney Paasaway (Press Secretary to the President of Liberia).
Can Sen. Taylor and Rep. Snowe differentiate the foregoing decision by former President Taylor and that of President Sirleaf? Should they have nothing better to offer the media, let them leave us alone? The Senator and representative must not cry more than the bereaved. They media is capable of pursuing its own agenda, and don’t such political game.