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Special Feature

“U.S. Flip Flops Over Liberia: Say What You Mean; Mean What You Say”

If Cable News Network (CNN) Christine Anna Amanpour’s candid assertion that: “Peace is the first casualty of war” while covering the conflict in the Balkans particularly – Sarajevo in the early 90s is anything to go by– then it is only fair to reckon that a deliberate effort aimed at gross misrepresentations and disconnected attributions constitute an alibishrouded with political motive and as such is a travesty in search of the truth.

There was absolutely no basis on the part of FrontPage Africa todo an overly worded officially position of FPA virtually editorializing comments allegedly attributed to outgoing U.S. Ambassador, Debora Malac on a wide-range of issues bordering on Liberia. What is worth establishing is that by the very irresponsible disposition of the press – we have come to witness an avalanche of court cases and countless complaints from citizens on the gross misconduct and ethical breaches committed by the media under the disguise of so-called press freedom or acting in consonance with the letter and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act”.

FrontPageAfrica sought to catalogue case studies that have no correlated basis within the sphere of non-existent facts, figures and empirical statistics. There should be no room for any tit-for-tat marriage within the context of seeking to link “Liberia Governance Stakeholder Survey Report”to a vague comparative analysis. The same report indicted media practitioners who are in the business of blackmailing and using various forms of solicitations. Long before the report came out – the media have been variously covering scores of allegations on corruptions leaked to the press through a syndicate put in place by former Auditor General to portray all public officials as the bad guys while he saw himself as a “saint”.

On the question of the cliché of step-fathering; it is only unfortunate that such propagandistic posture should inform constructive debate whatsoever. It could be anybody’s guess for FrontPageAfrica trek a posturing path when ‘every state, whatever its power, wealth or extent, possesses certain unconditional prerogatives, which no other nation may infringe without violating the fundamental cannons of international society’. Simply put, successive leaderships should have demonstrated the hindsight and patriotism to put the national interest above every other consideration. Do we blame others because our leaders failed to carve out some kind of strategic plan or roadmap to responsibly address education, health, economy, agriculture, women and youth empowerment?

Isn’t it bemusing that FPA would rather become incensed by sheer emotional outbursts with the use of the ink. If journalism must encompass that nobility it precludes editorial judgments cannot be personalized. FPA interestingly refers to ‘corruption’ about which it cited several vocal utterances by former Ambassador Greenfield – including her address at Cuttington graduation exercises. What FPA did not equally accentuate was blackmail and extortion tactics commonplace in the media. FrontPageAfrica conspicuously ignored corruption in terms of its trappings vis-a-viz deep-rooted consequences. The taxi driver who over-charges his passenger seemingly should bear no scars of corruption; the messengers in our various offices who allow stationeries to develop legs to disappear are not corrupt; a petty trader inflates prices is not corrupt; or the students who select to pay bribes for undeserved marksare also not corrupt. When those in the press willfully kill stories based on inducement – that is not canonizing corruption. If we must fix our own problem – the likes of FPA should not just be seen as products of any journalism but responsible journalism.

How could FPA unfairly see Ambassador Malac’s tenure as a mark of dramaticchange in U.S policy dealing with Liberia?What would be the justification for a strong condemnationof nepotism that is rife and endemic in sole proprietorship and just everywhere?When former Auditor General Morlu colonized the GAC into an ethnic kingdom or cabal – the likes of FPA saw nothing next to nepotism. It will be foolhardy to crusade the fight for social justice with one eye closed.

When the press engages in reporting incorrectly especially when precise quotes attract personal editorialized commentaries – the facts become missing. The press often pride that the nobility of their professional requires the search for “Who, where, when, where and How”. In the professional argument of Michael Parentti – this is straight-forward narrative prose. When the news goes and various actors advance their individual thought processes – such commentaries are littered with subjectivity and lack the coloration of responsible journalism.

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Again, the usually one-sided articulation people tend to advance divorced of broad-mindedness would sometimes invoke the insight to delve into motives. Surely, the local media have been on a politically motivated spree – criticizing and accusing the President of practicing nepotism. Is FPA suggesting because it has not specifically come from outgoing Ambassador Malac – therefore it bears no weight. When President Sirleaf’s family members get hired based on competence – should we ignore the fact that FPA’s co-partner Morlu who flooded the GAC with his kin and kithsand also referred to as “Outlandish” by former Ambassador Greenfield – did it not deserve the sameonslaught in the name of the fight for social justice?

Dismally, if the credibility with which the media demand so much respect is anything to crystallize the quest for the noble institution – validating the existence of corruption simply because Global Witness, Transparency International, Financial Integrity must necessarily say so is a disservice to the journalism profession. In effect, the media according to FPA do not have the moral high ground to report nothing factually correct. What the FPA is failing to appreciate is that these Integrity Organizations rely on what is reported in-country. What a shame!

FPA, it would appear is singularly the only stranger in Jerusalem who seem not to be troubled by rising acts of violence, lawlessness and increasing wave of ritualistic murders. Although corruption breeds poverty and denies the people just opportunities and benefits but lawlessness, violent crimes or mob justice deserve the kind of consistent condemnations and outspokenly critical criticism the media would feel obliged to direct at the government.

FPA doesn’t get it that the Americans have been working with Liberia to rebuild, empower and strengthen our security forces. If FPA and its supporters should appreciate that this country has indeed transitioned. It is obligatory that the media acknowledge that the prevailing environment in which major issues such corruption, accountability and transparency critically covered was formerly inconspicuous. FPA must realize that the audacity to responsibly create the spacein whichtolerance is exercised remains ultimately fundamental to our infant democracy.

Ambassador Malac was compelled to provide professional tutorials to the local media for its continued ethical miscarriages on the landscape. The diplomat adds: “Many people seem to be under the impression that a free press means that the media can say whatever it wants. That is not the meaning, though. Free press means that the media is able to report on all events and issues that affect the lives of the public without interference or limitation by the government. However, the basic tenets of good reporting still apply. What are those basic tenets? Accurate, verifiable information confirmed by multiple sources. It does not mean that the reporter can pull together unrelated quotes to make an article reflect his or her personal point of view.” Whether the media would take a cue is entirely another matter. But if the media must be the true watchdog – it is only fair that the culture of self-criticism become the sine qua none of how they go about their role since they do not live on a foreign planet.

What runs through the minds of media practitioners when a foreign diplomat who has been willfully misquoted would have to take time out to beat senses into the heads of supposedly professionals:“Good reporting is an essential part of democracy. It helps the people understand what is happening in their country and with their government. It enables people to become better citizens and respond to issues that affect their lives. However, the press is powerful, and bad reporting is contrary to the goal of a free press. Bad reporting is incendiary, leading to public discontent and reaction that is not in keeping with building a strong, stable country. Journalism is a powerful tool that needs to be used wisely. When used it well, journalism improves the country and the lives of the people. When used poorly, journalism is a destructive weapon. I encourage all of the media outlets in Liberia to use their powerful tool of journalism wisely”.
Ambassador Malac’s comment on security goes beyond any political chicanery as far as the local reality is concerned. The United States government committed tremendous

esources to the Security Sector Reform and therefore her concerns are genuine and mutually viable:“The government and the security forces have a certain role to play, but they cannot be in every single location”. But Ambassador Malac of course speaks to the hearts of ordinary Liberians when she examines what the government can do amid its limitations and calls on the citizenry to play their role for the greater good:“So, it’s really incumbent on communities and counties and districts to develop their own mechanisms to ensure that people don’t allow these kinds of events to spin out of control. When they happen and they end up in either injuries or death to individuals, or destruction of property, you’re only hurting yourselves, you’re not necessarily hurting the target of that anger”. FPA and colleagues in the media have a duty to see Ambassador Malac’s candor beyond their noses for the greater good. Essentially, whatever outgoing Ambassador Malac did during her successful tour of duty to Liberia – it imperative to note that – all she did, she knew was in the interest of America.

By: Cicero Nyanfor Joseph

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