Go Beyond Lip Service on Press Freedom, Mr. President


PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH spoke confidently of his administration’s support for press freedom in Liberia when he served as keynote speaker at the official turning over of the turning over of UNMIL Radio to ECOWAS Radio last Thursday.

CITING THE numerous efforts by the UN and the collective will of the sub-region to support freedom of the press, human rights, as well as sustain the consolidated gains that have been made in Liberia on its path to development, progress and democracy after years of turmoil, the President said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains a milestone document in the history of human rights and assured the UN that he will work with the National Legislature to ensure that those laws that criminalize free speech be repealed, as they serve as a form of media censorship and muscling of the press.

IN RECENT WEEKS HOWEVER, the administration has not exhibited any sign that it is serious about putting the many declarations of ensuring a free environment for the press.

SOME OF THE PRESIDENT’S key aides including former youth leader Jefferson Koijee, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Deputy Minister Eugene Fahngon have taken turns raining verbal assaults on the media.

KOIJEE, the party’s former youth leader, now Mayor of the city of Monrovia charged last week that the ruling establishment will not be intimidated by reports from the media. “We stand tall to work for our people and care less about the media criticism of this Government,” Mr. Koijee declared while speaking during programs marking the turning over ceremony of Mr. Moseray Momoh as Deputy Director for Administration of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation.

KOIJEE’S RANTS were apparently in response to a FrontPageAfrica investigative report which exposed how the newly-appointed LWSC boss had been blacklisted by the African Development Bank and forced to step down from the LWSC on July 30, 2015 after discovering that his dismissal was imminent.

AN INVESTIGATION COMMITTEE recommendation Mr. Momoh’s dismissal due to his alleged involvement with tampering with the bidding process for the contract. The investigation found him liable of the tampering with the bid process and failing to disclose his relation with one of the companies/individuals participating in the bid.

THIS IS WHY WE ARE APPALLED that President Weah is not doing enough to guarantee Press Freedom President Weah. This is why it is important for him to go beyond the declarations and guarantee that his administration will not tolerate attacks on the press on his watch.

WHILE WE ARE PLEASED that the President is supportive of the Table Mountain Declaration; a key instrument for press freedom and free speech, which was signed by his predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2012, we demand more.

WE APPLAUD THE PRESIDENT’S declaration in which he said: “We believe, no person should be arrested, intimidated or harassed for freely expressing their opinions on any subject”. Nevertheless, we feel strongly that this administration owes it to the scores of journalists who have died in the struggle for free speech and human rights to go beyond the lip service and actually enforce the Table Mountain Declaration in its entirety.

SAYING AND DECLARING in the big speeches is one thing but putting those declarations into practice is an entirely different matter.  Free speech and human rights are two of the most important builders of modern democracy. Without them we are bound to fail and preying on the advices of sycophants is a recipe for failure.