Dear Mark Zuckerberg, Please Help End the Hatred in Liberia

THE GUNS OF WAR MAY BE SILENT but it appears that Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation has become the new playground where sycophantic followers of the powers that be have now become the new rebels, using the social media platform to point out perceived enemies, just as it was done during the civil war that killed thousands and sent scores into exile.

Dear Mr. Zuckerburg,

YOU MUST have had some great intentions when you came up with the idea of launching Facebook on February 4, 2004, in a bid to create a universal website that could connect people around the universe and open an avenue for business and social interaction.


THE FACEBOOK phenomenon has revolutionized social interactions in ways beyond the imagination, spurring a wave of other social networks like Instagram, Twitter, Whazzap, Imo, Signal and a whole lot more.

WHILE THESE interactive channels are being used by many to make millions and widen the intellectual realms of today’s rapidly changing world, others surprisingly are using them to spew hate, vile languages and even threats against those they feel have a different viewpoint to theirs.
OTHERS TURN to the creation of fake pages to attack their targets and critics.

THIS BRINGS US to a tiny country called Liberia, founded by freed American slaves with a population now around 4.7 million.

A FEW HOURS ago, a young woman, Ms. Precious T. Bollie lost her job as a Data Analyst in the Gender-Based Violence Division at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.

MS. BOLLIE was informed by her employers who accused her of spewing insults and threats at public officials via social media. “These acts clearly constitute “conduct unbecoming of an employee in the Public Service, which qualifies for your dismissal.”

THE LETTER, signed by Minister Piso Saydee Tarr, read: “In view of the aforementioned, the senior Management at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection(MGCSP) writes to inform you of the TERMINATION OF YOUR SERVICE as a Data Analyst assigned in the Gender Based Violence Division Department of Gender with immediate effect.”

THE LETTER did not give any examples of the alleged “insults” levied against government officials, but came just days after Ms. Bollie was threatened by a Facebook user, who happens to be a government sympathizer, that he would make sure she loses her job.

MR. CIVICUS BARSI-GIAH wrote: “You will definitely lose your job. It is just the matter of time. You come on Facebook and call the President disaster but want to work with him? Sad.”

DID THE MINISTER act on the rantings of a ministry outsider? Is there proof of the insult Ms. Bollie made against authority?

SIMILARLY, LATE LAST YEAR, another Liberian woman, Harriet Goe lost her job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Her crime? She was sitting amongst friends listening to the Henry Costa morning show and laughing at some of the things callers were saying about the government.

A ‘FRIEND’ WHO was in the company, told someone in authority and Goe was out of a job.

GOE HAD initially pondered exploring legal options but decided to just let it go. “I dropped the case because I didn’t want to be stressed out,” she told FrontPageAfrica at the weekend.

THE IRONY OF all this is that some of the same people celebrating a nominee for the post of Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations’ threat to kill Liberians and advocating for his confirmation are willing to give him a free pass while equally celebrating the dismissal of a civil servant expressing her views on Facebook.

UNDER CHAPTER 4, Section 4.2.2(d) of the Standing Order of the Civil Service rule, “When a case of misconduct or general inefficiency is brought to the attention of an Agency Head or the Director General, disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated only after the employee or officer concerned has been given adequate opportunity to exculpate himself. If the opinion of the Agency Head or Director- General, an employee fails to exercise himself, the following penalties shall apply:

REGARDING Incompetency/inefficiency: Two letters of warning followed by withholding or deferment of increment, or dismissal.

THE ONLY ACT for which one is dismissed under the guidelines is for Conviction of Felony.

MS. BOLLIE told FrontPageAfrica Saturday that she was previously warned for an unrelated issue which has nothing to do with what is pointed out in her letter of dismissal.

THE WARNING was related to her refusing to pp a communication to someone when she had not received authorization from that person and never warned in relations to insulting public officials and has no record of insulting public officials. “Sometimes I post on Facebook, just for fun,” Bollie lamented.

MS. BOLLIE acknowledges that she did have a Facebook exchanges with Mr. Ricks Barsigiah who threatened to ensure that she lose her job. Screenshots, according to Ms. Bollie ended up in the ruling CDC chatroom in which the president and other officials of government frequent. It was there that her dismissal was discussed.

SECTION 4.2.2 was justly utilized in June 2014, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) dismissed five personnel of its Internal Security Bureau (ISB) for their alleged involvement in corrupt activities at the Ministry. The five ISB officers were dismissed for purportedly extorting monies from members of the public in an effort to facilitate the processing Liberian passports.

AT THE TIME, the ministry said the decision to dismiss the five security personnel is in line with Chapter 4 Section 4.2.2(h) (Dishonesty in the Conduct of the Government Business) of the Standing Order of the Civil Service. According to MFA, the action of the five security agents brings the integrity of the Internal Security Division into question and also has the potential to negatively reflect the image of the Ministry at a time when it is exerting all efforts to improve the passport service delivery system.

IT IS HARD TO IMAGINE that both Ms. Bollie and Ms. Goe’s acts qualify or fall under the same magnitude of those dismissed for dishonest conduct.
WHAT COMES close is Section 4.4(d) which was not stated in the letter to Ms. Bollie. That act, covers “conduct unbecoming of an employee in the public service which requires suspension or dismissal.

EITHER THE Gender Minister did not read the policy or her was ill-advised by her aides.

MR. ZUCKERBERG, I’m not sure how much you know about Liberia but it has a rich history which very founding and name represent freedom.

THE NAME LIBERIA originates from the Latin word “Liber” meaning “free.” Liberia was originally home to liberated African- American slaves from the United States in the early 1820s and has very close ties with the United States.

IT IS HARD TO IMAGINE that both Ms. Bollie and Ms. Goe’s acts qualify or fall under the same magnitude of those dismissed for dishonest conduct.
WHAT COMES close is Section 4.4(d) which was not stated in the letter to Ms. Bollie. That act, covers “conduct unbecoming of an employee in the public service which requires suspension or dismissal.

NEARLY A DECADE before its independence in 1816, Reverend Robert Finley founded the American Colonization Society as a way to help free the black slaves that immigrated to Africa. Due to the success of the ACS, the establishment of the colony known as Liberia was founded.

ON JULY 26, 1847, it gained its independence and has since worn the crown as Africa’s oldest Independent country. You wouldn’t know that from the immaturity play of the past 172 years and a lazy effort to really grow up.

IRONICALLY, ONE OF THE FIRST acts of President George Manneh Weah, when he assumed the presidency, was to resubmit to the National Legislature a Bill with modifications, to repeal some sections of the Penal Law of Liberia in an effort to decriminalize free speech and create an unfettered media environment.

THE BILL SUBMITTED May 31, 2018 seeks to amend Chapter 11 of Penal Law of 1978, repealing Sections 11.11 on criminal libel against the President; 11.12 on Sedition and 11.14 on criminal malevolence.

SAID THE LIBERIAN LEADER: “Honorable Speaker, Chapter 111, Article 15 of the Constitution provides for Freedom of Speech and expression and a caveat of an abuse thereof. Additionally, Liberia is a signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration which demands that African countries abolish insult and criminal defamation law.”

THE MOVE WON admiration from around the world. The United Kingdom (UK) through its Minister of the Department for International Development (DFID), Harriett Baldwin, trumpeted: “It is a milestone to be celebrated. It decriminalized libel against the president and amended the law on sedition. I think we should all give them a warm round of applause,” Baldwin said.

THE UK OFFICIAL ADDED: “We know that free media enables people to learn about their rights and hold governments to account. This is vital for developing free and open societies,” adding that “when people can engage with the decisions that affect them, they can prove the effectiveness of their government which makes business better, improves civil society and eventually, they take charge of their development in such environment.”

DISMISSING A CIVIL SERVANT in the absence of a Social Media policy that outlines expectations of acceptable social media use is wrong.

LAST AUGUST, a worker in Canada, fired for publishing a negative (and private) post about her employer on Facebook won an unfair dismissal bid after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) found her sacking was “harsh”. However, in a ruling which further clarifies the FWC’s stance on the rights of employees and businesses in the domain of social media policies, the commission found the worker was dismissed for a valid reason.

The worker, a longstanding employee of over a decade with no prior record of disciplinary action, was fired after allegedly breaching her employer’s social media policy, having posted negative material about the company on Facebook.

LEGAL EXPERTS SAY, it’s not enough for businesses to create social media guidelines for their employees – they need to make sure they’re reasonable enough to be implemented and are then checked regularly against the industry’s fast-moving trends, a legal expert warns.

THE IRONY OF all this is that some of the same people celebrating a nominee for the post of Deputy Minister of Defense for Operations’ threat to kill Liberians and advocating for his confirmation are willing to give him a free pass while equally celebrating the dismissal of a civil servant expressing her views on Facebook.

MANY LIBERIANS lost a friend, loved one, sister, brother, mother or father during the civil war because someone pointed them out from a line of refugees fleeing the fighting.

THE GUNS MAY BE SILENT but it appears that Mr. Zuckerberg’s creation has become the new playground where sycophantic followers of the powers that be have now become the new rebels, using the social media platform to point out perceived enemies, just as it was done during the civil war that killed thousands and sent scores into exile.

THERE MAY NOT be an easy way out of this debate and there will always be defenders on both sides of the aisle. What remains disturbing is that as old as Liberia is, there seem to be a lingering curse in an environment where people have become emboldened to celebrate wrong and mediocrity.

THIS IS a nation that celebrated the killing of a president on April 12, 1980 and the execution of thirteen members of his Cabinet because they were corrupt, nepotistic, evil and greedy.

THOSE SAME vices are celebrated today in many circles – and adversaries of wrong are eerily expecting the rest of the world to stand by and do – or say nothing.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS when impunity reigns. When warlords are allowed to go free – and any Tom, Dick and Harry can feel they have a license to spew hate and point out critics or those with a differing view with impunity.

THIS IS WHY THIS SOS call is to you Mr. Zuckerberg, wherever you may be, whatever you may be doing. The Facebook you created is becoming a nuisance to the world. For a small country like Liberia, it is becoming even more, a haven of hate ringing familiarity and flirting with reminiscences of the dog days of a bloody civil war, many would rather forget.

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