ON WEDNESDAY, the Mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Tamba Koijee, would be speaking to journalists across Liberia on the Theme: “Journalism Under Digital Siege” as part of the commemoration of this year’s World Press Freedom Day.
THE UNITED NATIONS General Assembly declared May 3 to be World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day, observed to raise awareness of the importance of freedom of the press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration, a statement of free press principles put together by African newspaper journalists in Windhoek in 1991.
THE SELECTION of Mayor Koijee has caused a lot of stir among journalists, with many questioning his competence to serve as the orator of the day. Others have claimed that he has a tarnished human rights record and therefore cannot speak on issues relating to press freedom.
MANY OF THOSE raising questions about Koijee’s selection are journalists, who are pointing at the mayor of Monrovia’s “questionable” life as public, particularly in the wake of allegations of human rights violations.
THEIR DOUBTS, however, haven’t been backed by facts as the mayor have in many instances called on them to prove their allegations. To date, not in single journalist has proven the mayor wrong about his alleged human rights violations.
KOIJEE IS ONE of several prominent government officials to serve as Orator of the PUL anniversary.
FOR THE RECORD, the likes of Prince Moye, Senator of Bong County, and Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa were selected by the Union to serve as Orators in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
MOYE, FOR INSTANCE, graced the Union’s 55th anniversary in Gbarnga, Bong County in at the time he was contesting for the Senate.
HIS PREFERMENT provoked condemnations from locals in Gbarnga, who thought that Moye’s selection was an indirect endorsement of his candidacy by the PUL.
AND JOURNALISTS, who had converged on Gbarnga for the program, leaped to the Union’s defense, saying that the selection of an Orator was void of politics and consistent with the policy of the PUL, even though they didn’t name such.
Everyone’s views and opinions on the matter ought to be respected. However, as journalists, we ought to remind ourselves that our expressed views and opinions on matters, no matter what the subject may be, must be based on established facts.
FOR FAR TOO LONG, journalists in Liberia have become conveyer belts, only there to relay what others say. And in many cases, we have fallen short of applying frantic journalism to hold people’s feet to the fire and holding their backs against the wall with facts undeniable.
WE WOULD BELIEVE that rather than castigating Koijee’s selection amid our unsubstantiated concerns, we must seize the opportunity not only to carefully scrutinize the sincerity of his oration but to also ensure that he addresses all the allegations and concerns we may have against him as it relates to the alleged human rights violations.
WE HAVE NOT come to defend Koijee’s selection or the allegations against him. We have come to question ourselves as journalists, and media practitioners, whether we are actually rising to the occasion and raising the bar of journalism. We have to ask ourselves, as we continuously celebrate World Press Freedom Day and continue to fight for our freedom in the course of our work, are we utilizing this freedom to the fullest for the benefit of society?
WE AT FrontPageAfrica believe that overall, journalists in Liberia have not fully utilized this freedom. We have not dared the devil enough with this freedom. Had we done so, we would have clearly established the facts surrounding the allegations against Koijee.
This is why we will call on all journalists around the country to seize the opportunity that has been presented to us to grill the Mayor on all the concerns we may have.
A LOT HAS SLID in this country because as journalists, we failed to pursue them religiously and bring to light the reality of issues. As we continue to fight for freedom of the press, we must begin to fully utilize the freedom we fight for the enhancement of democracy. We must stand firm against being used by political actors for their selfish political gains. We must be journalists.
HAPPY WORLD Press Freedom Day!