Arguably, one of the indicators for any emerging or growing democracy in a post conflict environment is the foundation of freedom of speech and press that falls under the umbrella civil liberties. This fundamental rights that cannot be aloof from the same democracy also holds people accountable for their utterances or whatever the say against an individual or institution as far as the rule of law also consistent with democracy is concerned.
This indicator has always been one of the challenges ever since the evolution or emergence of democracy in Africa.
If one were privileged to critically assess the gains and challenges of the Ellen’s regime or administration, no objective person as expected will repudiate or deny the enjoyment of freedom of speech and press as one of the significant gains compare to previous regimes that we all know about.
Today as we speak, the tolerance of this freedom of speech and press have made some people whose names never heard in previous regimes to be popular as a result from the dominance of both the print and electronic media headlines and radio talk show programs. By this, it is no doubt that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration has laid the foundation of freedom of speech and press to the extent that some people continue to abuse the office of the Presidency with impunity.
Now should you feel incline to challenge or refute this argument about the foundation of freedom of speech and press being erected by this current regime, let me without any attempt to pose as government mouthpiece or looking for any pecuniary benefits as you would think take advantage of this platform to enlighten you.
You will agree with me that the freedom of speech or press cannot be aloof from accountability as far as the rule of law or due process is concern. If an individual publicly accuses another person as freedom of speech, the accuse whose character that has been defamed has the right to ensure that utterer provide the evidence in the court of law. Realistically, there are no private courts that adjudicate legal proceedings outside the confines of the government. It has to be the government.
This was exactly the case of Mr. Rodney Sieh and former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe. Unfortunately, some people particularly media practitioners describe that as an attempt by the government to muzzle the press.
Similarly, if an individual or Institution acting under the banner of freedom of speech or press say or publish any article that from all indications portray serious internal security risk, under the same canon of democracy that also emphasized freedom of speech or press guarantee by all Constitutions, the government has the right to subject that individual or institution to investigation on grounds that it has the legal responsibility to protects its people including the institution or utterer against security threats.
When this is done regardless of due process of law, some people particularly media practitioners describe the action as an attempt by the government to muzzle the press.
To convince you more if your doubts are not clear, think about the United States government attempts to prosecute Edward Snowden; an American computer professional who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to the mainstream media, starting in June 2013. Mr. Snowden claimed or argued that his right to publish classified information stemmed from the unanswered inquiry about the constitutionality of the NSA programs from his immediate supervisors, co-workers and anyone with the proper clearance who would listen. On one occasion, he told the NBC News that after bringing his concerns about the legality of the NSA spying programs to officials, he was told to stay silent on the matter.
Bearing in mind the canon of democracy that emphasized freedom of speech that consists of information, opinion etc. that Snowden enjoyed and the same right reserved by the U.S. government to protects its national security interest; critique the action of the U.S. government.
As we anticipate the next regime whether the same ruling party or another different political party that will replace President Ellen’s regime, my fear stems from building upon the foundation laid down by President Sirleaf. Will the same level of tolerance exist or enjoyed by the same people or another new breed of people? I am wondering what will be the reaction of the next regime.
One may want to argue that the current regime is compelled to promote and tolerate the kind of freedom of speech or press to the extent of affront on grounds that the President has to really demonstrate to the international community the merits of the Nobel Peace prize Award. If this is the case or thinking, then will it be safe to rationalize that next regime will not be compel to tolerate the same kind of freedom of speech or press because the President has not receive similar award? You come up with your own judgment or inference.
All that I can say is to register my fear for the next regime which may be termed as not genuine because it is probability or hypothesis that can be factual or mendacious. Remember that one can look at the current trend of events as the premise for his or her argument.
Think about our former President Charles Taylor that premised Ambassador George Manneh Weah ambition for the Presidency based on the trend of political events by then. By the time Ambassador Weah announced his quest for the Presidency in 2005, many of us remembered the former president revelation.
About the Author
Mr. Ambrues M. Nebo holds MSc in the top 5 % of the graduating Class in Peace and Conflict studies with specialty in Humanitarian and Refugee Studies form University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Post Graduate Certificate with distinction in Public Administration from Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration Ghana, BA Hon (Magna Cum Laude) in Sociology from African Methodist Episcopal Zion University College in Liberia and various International Certificates in peacekeeping operation from Kofi Anna International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana.
Besides this article, he has authored a dozen of articles dealing with contemporary issues in Africa and Liberia in which some (After the Deadly Ebola Virus, What’s next? Stop Pointing Fingers at the West for Political Problems in Africa; The National Disaster Management Agency deserves autonomous status; Stop Impeding the promotion of good governance in Liberia; Is Prolonged Regime, a Recipe for Potential Problems in Africa? And Instead of the International Criminal Court, blame our Leaders) can be accessed online at google search.
By Ambrues M. Nebo