Special Feature: The Impact Of President Trump’s Attacks On The Media

President Trump Hosts Ceremony Recognizing First Responders In The June 14 Congressional Baseball Shooting
President Donald J. Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump, in effort to erode public confidence in the mainstream media, has stepped up his attacks on the free press in manners and styles uncharacteristic of any leader of the free world in recent memory, by tweeting about “fake media” 141 times from January 10 to the end of October, according to The Washington Post.

Under the cloud of this shameful moment in US presidential history, journalists are being coerced to abandon their sacred duty of objective reporting in favor of normalizing lies, racism, and personality glamorization. You’ve got to fall in line to ingratiate yourself with the chief or risk being branded as a bunch of “fake news media” entities populated by “very dishonest people.” Whether it is his anger during a press conference or meeting with a foreign leader at home or abroad, the message remains consistent – “media organizations are fake and journalists are very bad people.”

That a sitting US president could be at war with the free press at this level and at his own choosing is mesmerizing, to say the least. This situation is so alarming that respected Arizona Senator John McCain recently warned that this sort of behavior is akin to “how dictatorship starts.”

Even Fox News, Trump’s favorite cable news network and an unlikely source of any criticism for him, is at odds with the President on this one. In a live interview earlier this year, Chris Wallace, an anchor at Fox News, confronted the President, accusing him of baselessly calling the free press the enemy of the people. “We fought with (President) Obama here and there, but he never said we were the enemy of the people.”

media
Media News concept

But Mr. Wallace appears to be even more determined to push back on the President’s assault on the media. Delivering a speech at the International Center for Journalists in Washington, DC earlier in November, the Fox News anchor said “President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on the free press in our history,”  adding that the president “has done everything to de-legitimize the media, attacking us institutionally and individually.”

Mr. Wallace surmised that President Trump’s purpose for this concerted campaign is “to raise doubts over whether we can be trusted when we report critically about his administration.”

Africa

While the American free press is the main target at the frontline of this war, attention must be drawn to the devastating consequences it could have on the media in emerging but fragile democracies around the globe, particularly Africa.

African Media_1
Africa Media Impact

Most African governments are viewed as corrupt and our leaders, most often than not, take on the posture of tyrants and dictators. There can be no bigger gift to a tyrant orchestrating his next media clampdown than hearing the President of the United States refer to the free press as “the enemy of the people.”

Before the inception of the Trump administration, African journalists had always counted on Washington to come to their aid when the going got tough. And through its various agencies responsible for press freedom, human rights, justice, among others, their cry was heard and supported.

Today, however, African journalists do not see a friend in the White House. They are now the ally of the fighting forces whose powerful “general” once scared away their enemy with a simple warning; just a simple warning! But that “general” has now turned the gun on his own men who are fighting for their own lives, leaving the African continent of the forces isolated with no arsenal.

Country Map of Africa
Country Map of Africa

Nonetheless, this situation as dire as it may be seen, shouldn’t be equated to the inescapable wall before an escapee.  The African media should not be the subject of a permanent dependency syndrome, in the first place. The continent has a vast natural resource base capable of self sustenance without launching “Africa First” policy only to isolate the continent and deprive it of the human capital needed for modern development.

Consequently, we need our leaders to remove the continent from the claws of corruption, ineptitude, inefficiency, and bad governance. We need our leaders to exhibit a high level of fiscal discipline, political tolerance, and transparency. We need our leaders to promote press freedom and consider journalists as partners in democracy, not enemies who pursue scandals.

If our leaders cannot create the enabling environment for our development and prosperity in partnership with the media, who else can?

About the Author: James Seitua is a former Editor of the Daily Observer Newspaper in Liberia

Sierra Leone: President Re-Shuffles Security and Diplomatic Service

With just under 4 months before the holding of General and Presidential Elections, President Ernest Bai Koroma in Sierra Leone has effected some administrative changes at the National Army and Police and Diplomatic Missions in Liberia, Gambia and Nigeria.

Major General Brima Sesay
Sierra Leone Army Chief Major General Brima Sesay

In a rather surprising move, the head of the country’s Army, Lieutenant General John Milton was replaced  and appointed instead as the new Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria.

He is being replaced by  Major General Brima Sesay who was promoted last March to the rank of Major General by President Koroma.

A press statement from the Sierra Leone Presidency issued in Freetown on Wednesday also announced the replacement of the Police Inspector Francis Munu by his Deputy Richard Moigbe.

Sierra Leone Police Inspector General Richard Moigbe
Sierra Leone Police Inspector General Richard Moigbe

Mr. Munu now goes to neighboring Liberia as his country’s Ambassador.

Liberia_Guinea_Sierra_leone_map
Map of Sierra Leone

All of the new  Presidential appointees will have to obtain Parliamentary approval.

West African Journal Magazine

 

UNHCR: Libyan Transit Points To Deter Risky Migrants Crossings

November 30, 2017 – The United Nations, through its refugee agency says it welcomes the decision by the Libyan authorities to set up a “transit and departure facility” in Tripoli for refugees and migrants in need of international protection – an initiative that offers viable alternatives to their dangerous journeys along the Central Mediterranean route.

UNHCR Roberto Mignone
UNHCR Roberto Mignone

According to Roberto Mignone at the Office the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Libya “We hope that thousands of the most vulnerable refugees currently in Libya will benefit from this forward-looking initiative,”

The UN News Center reports that the initiative, which is supported by the Italian Government, will facilitate the transfer of thousands of vulnerable refugees to third countries.

Mr. Mignone added that the main objective is to speed up the process of securing solutions in third countries, particularly for unaccompanied and separated children and women at risk. These solutions will include resettlement, family reunification, evacuation to UNHCR-run emergency facilities in other countries, or voluntary return.

At the facility, UNHCR staff and partners will provide registration and live-saving assistance such as accommodation, food, medical care and psychosocial support.

Political Map of Libya
Political Map of Libya

Meantime, an urgent evacuation plan has been drawn up at an African Union-European Union summit in Ivory Coast. According to the BBC, the African about 3,800 migrants will be returned to their countries, according to the plan.

Following international condemnation and outcry after the release of a video which purportedly showed African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya, the meeting of European and African leaders in Ivory Coast called for urgent help/

The UN-backed administration in Libya says it supports the agreement. However, with fractured political control, it remains to be seen how the agreement will be implemented.

Migrants from several African countries have been returned home in the last two months with help from the International Organization on Migration (IOM) and include, Gambia, Sierra Leon, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  joined the agreement, but has only limited control over the territory, raising questions about how it will work in practice.

The French President at the European- African Summit  called the slave auctions a “crime against humanity”.

African migrants are making the perilous crossing through the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea on their journey to Europe for a better life.

West African Journal and International Wire Services

 

 

Amnesty International Statement On Ogoni Land Murder in Nigeria

Oil giant Shell has a case to answer for its role in human rights violations including murder, rape and torture committed by the Nigerian military government in the 1990s.

Shell_logo
Shell Logo

The victims were the Ogoni people, whose land has been devastated by pollution from Shell’s operations. When the Ogonis organized in peaceful protest, the Nigerian government unleashed a campaign of appalling violence against them.

Despite a raft of evidence linking Shell with the government’s actions, no company executive has ever been made to answer for its involvement.

The fact that Shell has never been held to account for this is an outrage, and one that sends a terrible message: if companies are rich and powerful enough, they can get away with anything.

So, for the first time, Amnesty International has brought together the available evidence to paint a damning picture of Shell’s role.

From 1990 onwards, Shell knew that its requests for the security forces to intervene in the Niger Delta were likely to result in human rights violations.

In 1990, Shell requested the assistance of a paramilitary police unit to deal with peaceful protesters at one of its facilities in Umuechem. The police attacked the village with guns and grenades, killing 80 people and torching 595 houses.

Despite this atrocity, Shell went back to the Nigerian government for help in dealing with community protests. A clear pattern began to emerge: over and over again, Shell asked the government to intervene, and these requests were soon followed by violence and death. For example:

A Shell memo shows that on 18 March 1993, Shell staff “pleaded” with the governor of Rivers State for a military guard while its contractors laid a pipeline.

On 30 April, the army responded to community protests against the new pipeline by shooting and wounding 11 villagers at Biara village.

Days later, on 4 May, Shell again asked the governor for “assistance”. That same day, troops opened fire on community protests at Nonwa village, killing one man.  Once again, a direct request from Shell led to human rights violations.

Then, a memo from 11 May 1993 shows that Shell managers met senior government and security officials in Abuja “to mobilise support at top government levels”. The head of the security service assured Shell that the Ogoni situation “would be over soon”.

Two months later, the military incited and participated in a new wave of armed attacks on Ogonis.

Ogoni land protest
Ogoni land Protest

Despite these violations, it was Shell’s policy to provide security forces with logistical support.

A 1995 statement from Shell Nigeria’s then-chair Brian Anderson explained that it was company policy at the time to provide the Nigerian government with logistical support – including the use of its boats, buses and helicopters.

Sometimes Shell’s assistance directly facilitated human rights violations. For example, in October 1993 the company provided the army’s transport to Korokoro village, when troops opened fire on protesters.

Shell had no qualms about repeatedly offering logistical support to security forces it knew were committing human rights violations.

Shell even paid money to a military unit responsible for violence.

In December 1993, shortly after a military coup, Shell wrote to the new military administrator of Rivers State, highlighting the economic consequences of protests and naming communities, including in Ogoniland, where protests had occurred.

One month later, the military administrator created the new Internal Security Task Force (ISTF), under the command of Major Paul Okuntimo.

The ISTF began carrying out human rights violations almost immediately. On 21 February 1994, soldiers under Major Okuntimo’s command shot at thousands of people who were peacefully demonstrating outside Shell’s main compound.

Then, on 3 March 1994, Shell paid Major Okuntimo and 25 of his men an “honorarium”. An internal Shell memo explained that the payment was a “show of gratitude and motivation for a sustained favourable disposition towards [Shell] in future assignments”.

Shortly afterwards, the ISTF began a campaign of brutal raids in Ogoniland – killing, raping and torturing villagers.

Shell knew all about these human rights violations.

Major Okuntimo boasted of these raids on television, and they were widely reported. In July that year, the Dutch ambassador told Shell that the army had killed some 800 Ogonis.

Shell also had insider knowledge. Company executives met regularly with top government officials, and discussed the government strategy for dealing with the Ogoni protests.

Shell raised the Ogoni and Ken Saro-Wiwa as a “problem”.

Map of Nigeria
Map of Nigeria

The Ogoni crisis culminated in the executions of the “Ogoni Nine” by the Nigerian state. Among them was Ken Saro-Wiwa, a famous writer and leader of protests by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

Evidence shows that, at the peak of the crackdown in Ogoniland, Shell provided encouragement and motivation to the military authorities to stop the MOSOP protests, and specifically named Ken Saro-Wiwa.

A memo describes how, at a meeting with President Sani Abacha on 30 April 1994, Brian Anderson raised “the problem of the Ogonis and Ken Saro-Wiwa”.

Anderson reported that he came away from the meeting with the sense that Abacha “will intervene with either the military or the police.”

Indeed, within a month Ken Saro-Wiwa and other MOSOP leaders had been arrested, unfairly accused of involvement in murder, and held without charge.

The men were tortured and ill-treated in detention, before being found guilty in a sham trial and executed on 10 November 1995. The detailed records show that Shell knew the trial would be unfair and Ken Saro-Wiwa found guilty; but there is no indication in the available evidence of Shell trying to persuade the Nigerian military government to follow a less violent path in Ogoniland.

Conclusion:

Shell’s conduct amounts to encouraging, and, at times, facilitating the horrific crimes and abuses committed by the Nigerian security forces in Ogoniland in the mid-1990s. The company, knowing that violence against local communities was almost certain to occur, asked for the security forces to deal with community protests. Shell provided logistical support to the army and police, repeatedly underlined to the Nigerian government how the country was financially dependent on oil, and even paid money to the security forces.

More Ogoni land Protestors in Nigeria
More Ogoni land Protestors in Nigeria

Shell has always strongly denied these allegations. But the evidence paints a shocking picture of a corporation putting its interests above all else. The key question is: if Shell had not acted as it did, and had not pushed the Nigerian military and government, would so many people have been beaten, tortured, raped and killed?

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Nigeria, and Shell’s home states, the Netherlands and the UK, to launch a criminal investigation into the company’s role in the human rights violations committed by the Nigerian security forces.

Amnesty International Statement

Zimbabwe: President Mnangagwa Going After “Illegally Externalized” Assets/Funds

Harare, Zimbabwe – The newly installed President of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe’s new president is moving quickly to address corruption and the return of money taken out of the country by various individuals and some companies.

Former Zim Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa

A statement issued on Tuesday in the capital Harare quotes President Emmerson Mnangagwa as saying,”The government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets, with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them.”

The new Zimbabwean leader warned that “Upon expiry of the three-month window, the government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws.”

Mr. Mnangagwa who referred to the stolen funds as “illegally externalized” said the operation launched to recover the funds disclosed a huge amount and added that, “Such malpractices constitute a very serious economic crime against the people of Zimbabwe which the government of Zimbabwe will never condone.”

The 3-month amnesty period begins December 1.

Zimbabwe
Map of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy is near collapse due to sanctions and liquidity issues with banking institutions under former President Robert Mugabe.

President Mnangagwa is also moving to consolidate his power with the dismissal of the cabinet of Mugabe. No date has been set for the announcement of his new cabinet officials.

West African Journal Magazine

Liberians Still Weary Over Unsettled Elections; Want Run-off Held

The weariness of Liberians over the fate of their electoral process now dogged by legal hurdles after four parties sued against results of the first round on 7 October 2017 charging “massive fraud and irregularities” could soon be settled at the apex court in the country.

Liberia Elections
Liberians Display Voting Cards

The opposition Liberty Party sued demanding a rerun of the presidential and legislative elections meant to produce a president expected to succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was democratically elected, a historic moment since 3 January 1944 when Edwin J. Barclay turned over to William VS Tubman.

Following weeks of legal arguments, the hearing officer at the National Elections Commission adjudged that evidence adduced by lawyers of the Liberty party, the ruling Unity Party as well as opposition Alternative National Congress and All Liberian People’s Party was not sufficient to necessitate a rerun of the poll.

But the aggrieved parties appealed to NEC’s board of commissioners which swiftly upheld the decision. But the Supreme Court, which has seven days to dispose of the matter, has confirmed receiving an appeal from the aggrieved parties against the decision.

Political Parties Leadera in Liberia
Political Leaders in Liberia

Perhaps conscious of the race to beat the 16 January deadline for induration of a new president to avoid a constructional crisis, Liberians are hopeful the court will act expeditiously to pave way for the runoff poll between incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai and opposition leader George Weah who came 28.8 percent and 38 percent respectively in the first round of elections.

Meanwhile, public opinion is divided with youngsters who comprise majority of the population up in arms saying this is the time for Weah who resembles their kind to win while elder citizens on the other hand differ insisting Weah lacks sufficient experience and education to govern Liberia at this time demanding sophistication.

Notwithstanding the protracted court proceedings marked by bitter war of words involving supporters of candidates Weah and Boakai on radio talk shows there has been no reported violence.

By Our Correspondent TK Sannah in Monrovia

Sierra Leone Rejects Decision of ECOWAS Court on Dismissed VP Sumana

Abuja, Nigeria – Following the ruling of the ECOWAS Court on Monday in Abuja that the dismissal of Vice President Sam Sumana by President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Sierra Leonen Government has rejected the decision in its formal response.

Former Vice President Sam Sumanna and President Ernest Bai Koroma
Former Vice President Sam Sumana and President Ernest Bai Koroma

In a statement issued in Freetown by the Sierra Leone Justice Ministry said that “The Supreme Court of Sierra Leone did rule on the above matter and therefore no other court is competent to overrule it except by itself. Therefore, the Government of Sierra Leone refused to participate in the proceedings and does not accept nor recognize the ECOWAS court in respect of the said judgment.”

The ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled that the 2015 dismissal of the Sierra Leonen Vice President was done illegally and that his fundamental human rights, as guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

The Charter, set up in 1987, is an international human rights instrument that is intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in the African continent.

In dismissing the challenge to the Sierra Leonen Government that it had no jurisdiction over the matter, the Court held that it did have full jurisdiction to consider and adjudicate the case of Mr. Sumana in defense of is fundamental human rights.

In dismissing his former Vice President in 2015, President Koroma defended his decision then, saying that Mr. Sumana had taken up asylum in a foreign embassy and abandoned his duties.

Former Vice President Sam Sumana
Former Vice President Sam Sumana

In response, the former Vice President said he feared for his life and sought asylum in the U.S.

The ruling of the Ecowas Court of Justice awarded Mr. Sumana reparation for his legal fees, back salary and emoluments as of thee day of his dismissal by President Koroma.

In instances where local laws of Sierra Leone were involved or due to lapse of time, the Court said it could not offer such relief to Mr. Sumana.

42 African countries including Sierra Leone have signed and ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine