Some politicians and political parties in the country have embarked on a dangerous precedent of branding media houses and journalists as enemies therefore, issuing threats and barring them from their activities. The action is not only uncouth, but speaks clearly of what press freedom and freedom of speech would be like in this country if they ever ascended to power.
For few political parties and their narrow-minded standard bearers and vice standard bearers to subscribe to the uncivilized perception that certain media institutions and journalists are on a campaign to destroy their political ambitions is an unfounded imagination, which reminds us of the days of tyranny in Liberia when journalists were arbitrarily imprisoned and media houses shut down in a fruitless campaign to silence the press and stifle the free exchange of ideas.
Our attention has been specifically drawn to the recent actions of the Congress for Democratic Change of Presidential candidate Winston Tubman and his vice standard bearer George Weah on one hand, and the standard bearer of the National Union of Democratic Progress of Senator Prince Johnson, who both have blacklisted the media, including the New Dawn from covering their activities. In fact, the CDC has branded this paper as “evil genius” and publicly pronounced that it will not guarantee the safety of any New Dawn reporter at its campaign rallies. This is unfortunate and sad for the kind of democracy they envision for this country.
However, we are not totally surprised by the actions of parties and their executives that have embarked on such path because their past records are bleak with undemocratic tenets characterized by force of terror, brute and intimidation.
For instance, we vividly record in 2005; journalists who had gone at the CDC National Headquarters to perform their reportorial duties were flogged by zealot partisans and thrown out of the premises. The media vehemently reacted by boycotting all CDC activities. It took the intervention of the Press Union of Liberia to mediate between the party and the local media before it could get media coverage. Another incident occurred last month in Ganta, Nimba County when CDC vice standard George Weah subjected a reporter to intimidation and fear, forcing him to delete a photograph of a badly wounded partisan, who was knocked down by Weah’s security convoy.
Similar history have been recorded of the NUDP standard bearer Prince Johnson, who then leader of the defunct rebel Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, maltreated journalists, including a former President of the Press Union of Liberia and BBC Stringer Isaac Bantu, for not reporting about him (Johnson) after a press conference.
Now, these are the individuals campaigning from county to county and village to village seeking votes of Liberians to get elected to the Presidency. We can imagine the kind of leadership they will provide for this country if given the Presidency! Liberia will return to the dark days of the 1980 military junta or the Taylor regime when Star Radio, Radio Veritas and several newspapers were closed down and journalists bundled in prison, while others went into hiding.
The NUDP and the CDC should be told that blacklisting media houses and branding some as ”evil genius” is counterproductive to whatever political dreams they are pursuing in these elections. They need the media; not some, but all of the media in order to succeed in their aspirations.
As governments in waiting, both parties should begin to act now, if never, in manners that will win the trusts of not only Liberians, but the international community about their capacity and political maturity to govern effectively in a multiparty and pluralistic society, tolerating opposing views and cultivating an unfettered media landscape where democracy and all of its tenets will thrive.