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CommentaryON 2ND THOUGHT

On 2nd Thought: Solway, Arcelor Mittal Mining War, and the media propaganda

Sometime in December of last year, a former Liberian Government official approached this paper claiming to have an article on Solway and their Russian Mafias from a trained Liberian cyber expert.

The key focus of the article was how Solway Russian Mafias were engaged in cybercrime and that this “quote” trained Liberian Cyber expert had written a nice piece of feature article about their activities here.

This former official (name withheld) currently heads the Arcelor Mittal Liberia public relations campaign. His main goal is to sell Arcelor Mittal Liberia to the Liberian populace, make the company wins sympathy and pressure their lawmakers to rectify Mittal Steel’s controversial third Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).

For this campaign, several local media outlets have been enlisted. They are not to write any negative story or article about Arcelor Mittal Liberia and nothing positive concerning rival mining companies like Solway and HPX with investment interest in Liberia should be reported by them.

So, the article was sent at the eleventh hour and being a feature article coming from a “trusted source”, we decided to publish it without further verification of the authenticity of the author and the information-our bad. At that time this paper had no idea who Solway was.

The said article was subsequently published on the New Dawn website the following morning. But upon a second review of the article and the forwarded email, it was observed that the article originated from a member of the political group Council of Patriots (CoP), a political group that led the first and most popular postwar demonstration here demanding the Weah government to step down.

This drew the paper’s attention and following several investigations it was later decided that it be taken down and that it was not worth the publication in the first place.

Later, that evening, the paper received a call from an individual claiming to be a cyber expert who had noticed the removal of the article from the New Dawn’s website and wanted to be sure if the health of the website was okay. The paper informed him that the article was removed because the content of the information did not come from a credible source, and it was best described as mere propaganda piece that the paper didn’t want to get involved with.

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However, the “quote” Cyber Expert insisted that those Solway-linked Russian Mafias were around and that two other outlets that had reported the same article reported that their sites were hacked and only the article in question was removed-really. Follow-up calls with the outlets involved told this paper that for the same reason given by the New Dawn they personally took the article down.

Few days later, a professional colleague did an article on Mittal Steel’s third MDA and made a case for Solway and the rest of the competitors. Apparently, this did not go down well with someone appearing to be sympathetic to Mittal Steel. The individual first email to this paper was a direct instruction asking it to take down the article. When the paper insisted that it wouldn’t do so after nearly 10 email exchanges back and forth, the individual alleged that the only reason the paper has refused to take down the article is that it had been bribed to publish the same. -Seriously?

This paper has refused to accept monthly monetary payments to be restricted to only promoting Arcelor Mittal and not dwelling on its failures by the company’s external PR firm. Under such an arrangement, it is barred from writing positive stories about its competitors-Solway, HPX, and others.

This is the kind of arrangement that has been made with several local media outlets and a social media talk show host. These media outlets and social media talk show hosts have continued to spew the debate in favor of Arcelor Mittal, while bad-mouthing other competitors.

Why now?

The recent publication in which President George Weah was quoted as asking “the Liberian boy and the Indian man” to negotiate tends to project Solway as a Russian-owned mining Company or company linked to a Russian oligarch. These kinds of propaganda only robed the Liberian people of the benefits that come with the investments being discussed here.

If the sole aim is to create a public sentiment and pressure lawmakers to pass an MDA that would trap the country for couples of decades to come and prevent other competitors from entering the Liberian because of the money being dished out at the end of every month to some media outlets for public relations purposes, there is a need to rethink country.

This paper has refused to accept such monthly payment because it believes that the Arcelor Mittal Third MDA has issues that should be addressed, which if not, could entrap the country for decades, while Mittal and its shareholders marched at their banks with smiles.

Arcelor Mittal’s initial MDA with the Liberian Government was not placed under a critical microscope like the third because the country at the time needed investment to provide much-needed jobs for some stability since it was just emerging from conflict. Times have changed and the need to encourage other investors in the sector is necessary for the economic growth of the country.-To be continued

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