Liberia: An open Letter to President George Manneh Weah
Dear President Weah,
Affectionate greetings from Lusaka, Zambia.
I applaud your recent meeting with “media representatives,” but how many times will you do this, sincerely, Mr. President? How many times will you attempt to co-opt sections of the mainstream media? Don’t get me wrong. A meeting with the media is not a bad idea either. I remember not long after your inauguration, you invited some of the country’s top editors and journalists to your office for a meeting. This, you said, was to open a new chapter in press-state relations. Excellent move! But it seems nothing has changed. Your media team apparently lacks a clear strategy to engage with the mainstream media and counter perceived negative reports of abuse of power and corruption in your government.
Prior to your recent meeting with the media, it seemed media repression was taking new forms in Liberia. There are ominous signs that some government and ruling party stalwarts are on a mission to silence the press. Instances of raw intimidation and hostility to press freedom are extremely glaring and raise questions about your government’s commitment to a free press. In fact, recent events are the culmination of a sustained vindictive campaign by some government officials against the media in Liberia: The spate of threats of defamation lawsuits, smear campaigns, and branding journalists as “anti-President Weah” show disdain for the law, and press freedom – including being intolerant of critical voices. I am not implying here that press freedom means journalists can write just anything against anyone and go with impunity.
Make no mistake, the media is not your enemy. Instead, some elements within your media team are the ones driving your government into head-on collision with the media. The Liberian media is just being vigilant in reclaiming its place and defending the many liberties currently at stake under your government. Mr. President, the mainstream media in Liberia is only helping you to actively combat corruption and improve public service delivery. This is a duty the media must perform without fear or favour!
May God grant you the wisdom and fortitude to lead our country to prosperity.
Moses Zangar, Jr.
A Liberian Journalist residing in Lusaka, Zambia