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“Ellen Rebukes Journalists”: Some Comments

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In a front page article (New Democrat, December 11, 2013) the New Democrat reports that “President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has, once again, descended on the Liberian media . . . as commercial media . . . ‘checkbook journalists’, who . . . were being paid by newsmakers before publishing stories . . . andkato’”. Indeed, somebody has, finally, summon the courage (the President of the nation did) to confront the Liberian “media” in Monrovia.

As one who writes periodic commentaries – advises, rejoinders, opinions, responses and reactions to and on the news and developing events – critical to the vital interests, health, peace, unity and security of the nation, designed to “inform, educate and entertain” the people and nation, I am inclined to go along with the President, particularly, with respect to some (names upon request) newspapers in Monrovia, although this criticism is not absolutely true.

These (some) newspapers refuse not only to “give equal time” to rejoinders, responses or commentaries in response to critical, public policy debates or related national issues raised and published in the pages of their newspapers, but also that these newspapers refuse to publish commentaries, opinions and advises, without comment.

Meanwhile, these newspapers publish front page, articles as news events, with full-color photographs of 2-3, full-page center-spreads. On average, about 80% of their newspaper pages   are devoted to paid-advertisements, such that it is reasonable to conclude that these “newspapers” are, in fact, advertising agents. We understand, and agree, that advertisements are necessary because they sustain the very survival of the newspaper.

However, “an independent, truthful, fair, objective newspaper is indispensable to a functioning democracy; it is a friendly adversary to political power and authority”, we once wrote in advice to our superiors back in the old days. “Friendly, because the newspaper (media today) will extol, eulogize political power/authority for noble acts (Mandela, today); adversary, because the independent newspaper will tear into political power/authority for acts deemed unfavorable and condemned by the people (Barrack Obama in Africa and the Middle East today, for examples)”.

Concluding, we held that “a newspaper is, in fact, the eyes and ears of the political leader (President in our case, then and now) to ‘see and hear’ and report the shenanigans taking place in the offices of ministers, managing directors and board rooms of state enterprises”, now, including the Judiciary and the National Legislature.

To carry out this awesome but necessary responsibility, the independent newspaper depends, among others, upon experienced writers/analysts and columnists of the socio-economic and political order. The views expressed are, in fact, their own, but must be consistent with newspapers’ public policy.

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