Politicians in Africa or in every part of the globe usually take pleasure in bashing the media as a soft target for criticism even for selfish reasons. Weather in ruling establishment or from the opposition bloc, they always ascribe to themselves the qualification to set standards for journalists – standards that suit their own interpretation of issues.
The Media in Liberia found itself in the firing line recently at a forum organized by the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas or ALJA. Held in the U.S. State of Minnesota, the forum brought opposition leader Alexander B. Cummings and Government Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe together face-to-face to discuss the reported missing 16 billion Liberian banknotes.
Both sides used the media as a whipping boy to put forth their respective arguments, beginning with the former corporate executive-turned politician Cummings, taking the stage.“We will depend on you, journalists, to follow up this story so that the government provides answers to questions that demand answers: who ordered the printing of the missing money? How much exactly was printed? Where was it printed? Who took charge of the money once it entered the country? Did it go through the proper channels and processes at the Central Bank before being injected into the official money supply?”, he unleashed the barrage of questions.
He noted that a strong and independent media that monitors those in power and provides accurate information helps voters to hold corrupt politicians to account.But information Minister Nagbe, who officially put the moneys in question at 16 billion Liberian dollars, thinks the media is being influenced by opposition politicians not to follow the rules but to remain instruments to advance selfish and pecuniary political gains and interest.
“The new threats to freedom of speech”, he says, “includes the concerted efforts by some political actors, particularly those in the opposition interfering with policies of media entities, thereby transforming them not to follow the rules but to remain instruments to advance selfish and pecuniary political gains and political interest.”
Nagbe further charges that shirking the responsibility of being independent and selling out to politicians is by itself a threat to free media in Liberia, and roars, “Media controlled by political forces whose interest may be averse to the national interest is a creeping menace that must be stopped.”
We like to remind here that the independent media, usually referred to as the Fourth Estate, does not hold allegiance to any particular group – whether government or opposition politicians. Rather, we bark in the interest of the common good. In short, our loyalty is to the state, the common patrimony.
We are fully cognizant that in our objective to put the state first above selfish political interest that are camouflaged as so-called government policy or self-styled political struggle for redemption, either side would brand us as adversary agents and may attempt to crucify the media as in this case. But we can bold say without stupor that the media in Liberia is above the fray.