In her Annual Message to the National Legislature on January 25, 2010, the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, spoke on a number of issues regarding her administration’s achievements and challenges during the year 2009, as well as the way forward. Among the challenges she outlined was the issue of corruption, and of course, the media was never left out of the blamed game:
“I must act against those, including the ones close to me, whose malpractices have put my credibility and the credibility of the country at risk. I must also act against those in the media and elsewhere, who carelessly try to bring our country to shame by maliciously and falsely accusing citizens and institutions, only for political relevance or commercial gain.”
Being cognizant of the history of Liberian government and politics, we do not only regard Madam President’s utterances as temperamental, but a serious threat to the freedom the Liberian media community has enjoyed for the past three years.
While we sincerely acknowledge that the press freedom and free speech being exercised have never occurred under any Liberian administration other than Ellen’s, but the way “things are now falling apart,” we are beginning to sense a return to the status quo. Our problem with President Sirleaf has to do with the manner in which she made the comments.
We think Madam President’s comments cast negative aspersion over the entire Liberian media because she failed to identify those she claimed are recklessly bringing the country to shame by maliciously and falsely accusing citizens and institutions only for political relevance or commercial gain.
If no one can admit, we at the New Dawn will surely subscribe to the fact that there exists a few “rotten apples” among us, but that does not in any way give justification for the President’s unwarranted comments against the media.
We do believe that other than scape-goating the issue of corruption in her government, the President’s primary concern must be “to act against those, including the ones close to her, whose malpractices have put her credibility and the credibility of the country at risk.”
If Madam President could sincerely thread this path, of course, the media community would have no cause to publish or broadcast any issue of corruption the way it is done, but to report the good actions against corrupt public official by her.
Madam President must also be adequately knowledgeable about the right of the Liberian people to know how their government is run, most especially during these troubling times when most ordinary Liberians cannot afford even a dollar a day.
When most Cabinet Minister, Heads of Autonomous Agencies and Public Corporations refuse to relate to or work with their Deputies, Assistants and other Directors only because of corrupt plans, thus resulting to conflicts at these institutions, the people must know through the media.
We wonder why would Madam President want to “ act against those in the media” for reporting corruption issues emanating from the same government at the Ministries of Information and Public Works, so much so that Lawrence K. Bropleh and Lusinee Donzo had to be coerced to resign their posts as ministers?
Why would she even want to crucify “those in the media” for reporting corruption at the Liberia Petroleum refining Company (LPRC), leading to the dismissal of Harris Greaves as Managing Director by the very Madam President?
Was it the Liberian Media or it was the government itself that exposed these acts of corruption that Madam President would want to issue such threat? The fact of the matter remains that the blade that is “cutting “the President’s finger is just right in her pocket.
Until Madam President can get it out, the struggle continues.