LIBERIA: PRESIDENTIAL PROTOCOL NEEDS A REFRESHER COURSE IN MEDIA MANAGEMENT
OVER THE PAST few days, Liberians both at home and abroad have been using their social media space to raise their voices in hopes that President George Manneh Weah will take notice and speak to a number of burning issues currently on his plate: The dismal economy, rising exchange rate and the upcoming June 7 Save the State Protest.
THE AFTERMATH of the President’s meeting with members of the upper house of the national legislature offered an opportunity for the president to at least answer a few questions to the media stakeout awaiting him outside.
TO THE DISMAY OF MANY legislative reporters, the President’s protocol did not allow him chance to take a breather, make adjustment and address reporters in an orderly manner.
THE END RESULT led to misinterpretation of what was discussed behind closed doors and what the President actually told reporters in haste has he was whisked away on the grounds of the capitol into another meeting with members of the lower house.
THE PRESIDENT WHILE hastily being escorted from one end of the capitol ground to another was asked by a member of the legislative reporter pool whether he had any plans to meet with organizers of the protest, to which he replied: “No!… No!… No!.”
DURING THE INTERACTION which was recorded on audio and video by reporters covering the legislative grounds, the President remarked that he is not moved by the June 7 planned protest but says he is open to dialogue. “I’m not moved by what’s happening but I think the protest people have their right to protest. I think it is important for us to dialogue. We know what brought April 14, 1979 which is still on the minds of a lot of people and we are doing our best to make sure that does not happen again. Liberians should strive to promote peace and stability and this is what we are doing.”
THE PRESIDENT DESCRIBED Tuesday’s meeting with Senators as cordial. “We discussed national issues and some of the concerns to keep the country safe and peaceful including the protest, the concerns of citizens.”
MOMENTS AFTER FrontPageAfrica’s posting on its breaking news online edition of the President’s comment, a member of the Presidential press court called to say that the reporter misreported the outcome of the president’s meeting with Senators.
WHEN IT WAS MADE clear to the Executive Mansion staffer that the report was backed by video and audio recording, the conversation took a different turn.
IN FACT, PRESIDENT PRO TEMP Albert Chie told his briefing of legislative reporters that most if not all senators who made statements in the meeting recommended to President George Weah to take steps in making reshuffle in Government by bringing on board qualified individuals to work and assist his government achieve its goal in respective of their political affiliation.
THE SENATORS also recommended that the President hold a meeting with the organizers of the much-anticipated June 7 protest to find an amicable solution and that he addresses the challenging economic situation the country now faced. According to Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie important amongst the issues presented to the President are: Justice and Security, Economic Situation, Status of the L$16 Billion and the US$25 million intended to mop up excess Liberian dollars from the market.
THE PRO-TEMPORE also told legislative reporters that the withdrawal of the tenured bill, performance of current government officials, a government of Inclusion, UN letter regarding the management of funds, proposals for a National reconciliation conference and the issue of information dissemination from the Government to the people were on the agenda. “The President Committed himself to the resolution of issues raised in the interest of the People of Liberia of which he is the head,” the Pro-Temp said.
IT IS ESSENTIAL that the head of the Executive Protective Agency and those responsible for the President’s protective details understand the nature of their jobs.
STRONG COMMUNICATION between the EPS and the President’s press corps is key to ensuring that what took place Tuesday does not happen again.
THE WORLD HAS CHANGED – and news changed in a rapid fashion by the minute and on the hour. It is important that the presidential details come to terms with the changing realities of the modern world and proceed accordingly to avoid putting the President in an embarrassing situation as it did Tuesday.
MEDIA STAKEOUTS is the new norm for leaders around the world and offers leaders a chance to brief reporters and provide snippets of key meetings and conversations after important events or visits of foreign leaders and guests.
THE PRESIDENT CANNOT and should not be made to walk away from reporters covering him while talking. The wrong message could get out causing the president’s message and intent to be lost in translation.
THE WRONG MESSAGE at such a crucial time when the Liberian Council of Churches is trying to intervene with planners of the June 7 Save the State Protest does not bode well. THE EPS and the President’s details took their eye of the ball – and it came at a cost.