Editorial: Mr. President, Speak To Your People

Monrovia, Liberia- April 15, 2019: The worsening economic reality in Liberia needs no amplification.

President George M. Weah of Liberia

In the local parlance, “People are sucking air”.

In a recent video shared widely on Liberian social media sites, desperate marketers openly voiced frustration with the Weah Administration and its inability to curb the economic downward spiral; especially the declining Liberian dollar. The marketers are simple and good indicators of the local strength of supply and demand which drive the economy.

No one is “buying” because of the lackluster economic environment and the diminishing purchasing ability of the ordinary Liberian.

The sentiment of economic disappointment expressed by the marketers is a reliable representation of the view held across all sectors of the Liberian society that the hard time is too much.

It is reasonable to establish that Liberians are making the effort to speak to President Weah and his Government about their concerns; whether it is through angry marketers, the position of Coalition of Opposition Parties, peaceful marches and protests, mob violence or silence.

The fundamental question is whether Government is listening and, if so, what is its response.

What is baffling to Liberian citizens, and perhaps to the international community of economic observers is the “loud silence” from President Weah to the “status quo” of frustration, hard time and hopelessness ordinary citizens are enduring under his Administration.

In challenging times, citizens expect leaders to step up and inspire, motivate and lead. The President is not speaking nor is he motivating or leading.

This business of the Administration’s silence is clashing with confidence in Government. That confidence was the “Hope For Change” and blank check that some desperate Liberians, who, against their better judgment, as it is becoming evident, gave to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and President Weah when they elected him in December, 2017.

The blank check of “political capital” that the CDC led Government obtained from the people of Liberia, was, in the real sense, a “credit” which needed to translate to tangibles that will put food on the table, a job and escape from poverty.

The crises of confidence in Government are not just localized to the home theater. International business analysts and observers see a direct correlation between poor governance and Government’s inability to attract investments and infrastructures which are critical drivers of any economy; Liberia being no exception.

Liberia is identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of several sub Saharan countries with slower growing countries and where “there is a need to pursue reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and address remaining economic imbalances, many of these cases, private investments remain weak, and a strong focus is needed to address the constraints that are holding such investments back…”

A successful Liberian international business executive Mr. Sage Thomson, in an analysis of the Liberian situation, says, “…with our current inflation rate north of 30%, my goodness… why would any investor or bank want to do business with us? We don’t have a great story to tell the world. The President is jetting off without a serious business pitch. And that pitch starts with stability in your country. But guess what…food inflation is at 31% as of December 2018 and it is fair to say that it is very much higher currently in Q2 19.

Basically, government officials consume our GDP without understanding that you cannot run a nation or have any serious currency without productivity! Growth is driven by capital, labor and productivity… and productivity is 60% of what determines if a country is going to succeed or not.“

Thomson also cites the contributory challenge of uncontrollable “urbanization”. According to him, “another area of massive concern is urbanization.. Monrovia is tremendously overcrowded without any plans, for a secondary city for people to migrate to, for example, Ganta, Nimba County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Zorzor, Lofa County, etc…”

He attributes this uncontrollable factor to the frantic free -fall situation that Liberia is experiencing.

The series of anti-government protests in the last two years are indications that non- Administration supporters are effectively controlling the narrative to the disadvantage of Government. Control of the narrative that the Administration is corrupt and ineffective is winning over independents and some supporters of the Government who see confirmation everyday of some of the questionable actions or inaction by Government.

The once popular CDC is being openly challenged in debates in the public square and electoral contests for public office. Some Liberians are even accusing the Weah Administration of choosing to violate the Constitution rather than face the public embarrassment of losing by-elections due to its declining popularity; case in point being the delay in formally informing the National Elections Commission (NEC) about the vacancy in the Senatorial seat in Montserrado County in order to trigger preparation for and holding of a by election.

While it may be true that the Weah Administration may have simply forgotten to inform the NEC of the vacancy, equally, so, they’ve created room for opposition and independents to point to ineffective governance. This lapse contributes to sustained erosion of confidence and the desire to find an alternative leadership to the present Government.

It is no secret that political and social tensions and divisions are rising due to the economic malaise. And the creeping realization is that Liberians are slowly but surely reaching the point of no return when they would rightfully and peacefully call for a change in Government by invoking Articles 1 and 7 of the Constitution.

Article 1 says,  

“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments…”

Article 7 maintains that, “…freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia…”

The Weah Administration must “speak” credibly to citizens and begin to lead in all areas. It will require making some difficult choices which would include discarding some entrenched economic and political positions, realization that government critics are not “enemies of the state” but patriots; and even adopting some solutions offered by the opposition bloc.

If Liberia wins in the end, regardless of who is in the Executive Mansion, it will validate that Liberia is greater than any one person or political party.

Mr. President, citizens are trying to get your attention. They are suffering! Speak to them!

West African Journal Magazine

Arcelor Mittal Bats Down Claim of 1000 Job Creation In Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia – April, 12, 2019: The international iron ore conglomerate Arcelor Mittal, which is operating in Liberia, has denied that it is creating 1,000 new jobs in the sub-political divisions of Nimba and Grand Bassa Counties.

Assistant Information Minister David B. Kolleh

The claim was pushed on social media a few days ago by an Assistant Minister for Technical Services at the Ministry of Information in the Congress For Democratic Change(CDC) led- Government David B. Kolleh and a Deputy Director General for Rural Services at the state run national broadcaster – a ruling party operative Boimah J.V. Boimah whose profile identified himself in January , 2018 as a  CDC Chief of Social Media & Communications Strategies.

Deputy LBS Director General Boima J. V. Boima

The social media post listed the job creation as part of Government’s achievements for the people of Liberia. Mr. Kolleh was appointed in February, 2018 shortly after the inauguration of President George M. Weah.

West African Journal Magazine conducted a scan of various social media sites and found the claim on Facebook which credited Mr. Kolleh. He has been promoting the  Weah Administration on various social media platforms. Kolleh joined Twitter in July, 2011.  His last post was on September 9, 2018 in which he was promoting the Government run New Liberian newspaper which featured articles on the Liberian President.

In response to an inquiry into the job creation claim by Assistant Minister Kolleh, a media representative of Arcelor Mittal told the West African Journal Magazine ion Thursday in an email that, “This information is untrue. Arcelor Mittal Liberia has not opened new employments. We will continue operating as normal.”

This is the most recent account of Government operatives attempting to lie about actual events in the country. In March, an aide to President Weah Sekou Damaro Kalasco was caught red-handed posting a fraudulent photo  to show Government of Liberia road construction development in Lofa County, northeastern Liberia.

The photo was stolen from an African Development Bank (ADB) project in Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Kalasco later apologized for the mistake.

Liberian Presidential Aide Sekou Damaro Kalasco

In another social media post discovered from February, 2017, one Alieu A. Swaray challenged a prior post by Kalasco in which he erroneously charged that the annual budget of former Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai was more than that of the U.S. President.

The claim by Kalasco was untrue.

Social Media Posts from Feb. 2017

The Government is under pressure to produce tangible results to change the current dire economic situation and operatives have been trying to paint a positive outlook of Government to citizens; sometimes by embellishment or non-factual information.

By Our Correspondent In Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

GOL Spending Millions To Lobby In US; No Deliverables Yet

 

Washington DC – April 11, 2019: The Government of Liberia spent $4.5 million USD in 2018 on foreign lobbying fees in the U.S.

National Coat of Arms of Liberia
National Coat of Arms of Liberia

According to documents seen and in possession of  the West African Journal Magazine, the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry (LISCR LLC) based in Virginia, the U.S., acting as a foreign agent on behalf of a foreign principal – the Government of Liberia (GOL), reported income of $4,545,648 (Four Million, Five Hundred and Forty Five Thousand Six Hundred and Forty Eight dollars) for lobbying and influence in Washington DC  with the Government of the U.S. on behalf of the West African nation. The Liberian Registry is managed by the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR, LLC), a privately owned U.S. company operates globally.

A second lobbying firm that represented the interest of the GOL was the Friedlander Group which was paid $40,000 (Forty Thousand dollars) upfront and whose contract was canceled unilaterally by Government shortly after it was consummated in early 2018. The firm says no reason was given by the Liberian Government and monies are still owed by the Government to Friedlander Group.

KRL International LLC 5788-Exhibit-AB-20180822-24

In August, 2018, Liberia’s Foreign Minister Gbehzohngar Milton Findley signed for the Government of Liberia to secure the services of another lobbying firm known as KRL International LLC on K Street in Washington DC. Activities of that agreement were “to set a strategic framework for a visit of the Government of Liberia to the U.S. and “to reach key public and private sector stakeholders to support the Liberian Government’s strategy for economic growth”.

KRL in its filing with the U.S. Department of Justice, said it is assisting the Liberian Government of Liberia in ensuring continuing bilateral support from the U.S. Government.

Two emails to KRL International LLC to disclose the status of and the amount of its lobbying contract with the Liberian Government went unanswered.

The Weah Administration has been approaching various individuals and lobbying firms in the U.S. Government through lobbying firms to get to powerful and influential bi-partisan stakeholders for face time and continued international financial aid and support.

Greenberg Traurig-GOL Agreement Letter

The latest consulting firm whose services has been secured is Greeberg and Traurig, LLP to provide,  “ advice and counsel related to foreign relations issues, as well as educating the government and opinion leaders regarding same.” Signed by Liberia’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah on September 30, 2018, the agreement with Greenberg Traurig for representation before Congressional leaders in the U.S. is for $300,000 (Three Hundred Thousand Dollars) for a 12 month period beginning October 1, 2018.

Greenberg Traurig US Government Reporting Form

The Liberian Government, according to the agreement, is paying Greenberg Traurig, LLP $25,000 (Twenty Five Thousand dollars) monthly. Per the agreement, as of April, 2019, the Liberian Government would have paid $175,000 (One Hundred and Seventy Five Thousand dollars) with another $125,000  (One Hundred and Twenty Five Thousand dollars) remaining to be paid by September, 2019. The firm also operates a Political Action Committee (PAC), which donates to candidates from both Republican and Democratic political parties in the U.S.

A source who is knowledgeable of the efforts of U.S. based advocates and individuals who successfully appealed to the Trump Administration for an extension to the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for thousands of Liberians dismissed any talk that the Liberian Government lobbying efforts were responsible for the approval of the one year extension.

It is still unclear what “deliverables” the latest lobbying effort is producing since the Liberian President is yet to be invited to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump and U.S. aid and support remain basic, with just five months to go before expiration of the current contract with Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

US Congressional Seal
US Congressional Seal

According to an “Outlook” Report from May, 2018 prepared by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress which works under the direction of Congress, “…Weah appears to be enjoying a political honeymoon, but its duration may be limited, given the pressing nature of the challenges the country faces. His success is likely to depend on his ability to prove—both to Liberia’s citizens and to the international community—that he can govern competently, transparently, and accountably. Still, while he inherits many problems from the Sirleaf administration, he is also the beneficiary of extensive and ongoing donor-backed development and capacity-building assistance, including from the United States, initiated under Sirleaf. The prior government also proposed a range of reform legislation and policies that were not enacted or implemented that the new government may be able to adapt and pursue. For the time being, the United States appears set to continue to support Liberia’s current development trajectory, albeit with assistance allocations lower than those provided during recent past years…”

By Our International Affairs Correspondent, Washington DC

West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: Central Bank New Executive Director Sidiki Fofana Has Troubling Past

Philadelphia, PA and Monrovia, Liberia – February 1, 2019: An investigation conducted by the West African Journal Magazine into a new employee in a senior level position at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) has revealed some troubling information.

Mr. Sidiki Sekou Fofana, also known as Sidiki Fofana, and now goes by Hamed Sifonic in Liberia, a former resident of the cities of Darby and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, the United States, has since assumed the position of Executive Bank Director since January 1, 2019 in the Weah Administration in the small and impoverished West African country.

Sidiki Fofana Dossier
Sidiki Fofana Dossier

A 79 page dossier of public records obtained from Pennsylvania state government and other public data contained the following on Mr. Fofana:

  1. Parking Offense
  2. Driving an Unregistered vehicle
  3. Allowing the Illegal Use of a License plate/card
  4. Operating A Vehicle Without Insurance
  5. Operating a Vehicle With Inspection
  6. Improper Pass On The Right
  7. Driving on the Wrong Way
  8. Careless Driving
  9. Failure To Yield
  10. Failure To Yield To Work Vehicle and
  11. Illegal Parking Where Official Sign Prohibit
magisterialcourtdoc-philadelphia
Magisterial Court Docs – Pennsylvania

Mr. Fofana whose position is not directly reflected in the bank’s current organizational structure also had several liens and judgements filed against him in the City of Philadelphia:

  1. Federal lien for $5,749 filed on November 5, 2010
  2. Civil Judgment for $4,475 filed on August 9, 2012
  3. Civil Lien for $2,355 filed on July 6, 2012
  4. Civil Judgment for $1,763 filed on August 20, 2012
  5. Civil Judgement for $1,140 filed on April 2, 2012
  6. Civil Judgment filed for $1,458 filed on July 28, 2011
  7. Civil Judgment filed for $1,100 filed on July 2, 2011
  8. Civil Judgment for $1,613 filed on August 26, 2011 and
  9. Civil Judgment for $895 filed on August 5, 2018

The most egregious offense include a charge of Retail Theft of Merchandise by Mr. Fofana on May 29, 2018. He initially pleaded Not Guilty on June 19, 2018 and recently as of November 21, 2018, pleaded guilty in a Magisterial Court in Pennsylvania. Penalty was imposed and Fofana paid $210.25 and the case was closed.

sidikisekoufofana
Mr. Sidiki Sekou Fofana

Fofana was also booked on December 18, 2016 and charged with the misdemeanor of Driving Under the Influence with a high rate Blood Level Alcohol (BAC ) of .10 to under .16 detected by a breathalyzer test. In Pennsylvania, “…The first time you are arrested and convicted for drunk driving in the State of Pennsylvania you will receive 6 months of probation and a $300 fine if your BAC was between .08-.99. If your BAC was from .10-.159 you will receive from 2 days to 6 months of prison time prison, a $500-$5,000 fine and a 12 month driver’s license suspension. One drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol), 12 ounces of beer (4.5% alcohol), or 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol). Under current Pennsylvania law, (.08 BAC and higher) is legally intoxicated.

Since it was his first offense, he was diverted to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)  which is  a special pre-trial intervention program in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, United States for non-violent offenders with no prior or limited record. Defendants in an ARD program are placed under supervision which is also similar to probation.

centralbankofliberiabuilding
Central Bank of Liberia Building In Monrovia

Senior level employees of the Central Bank including the Governor, his Deputy, and those in operational roles, as would Mr. Fofana, are required to be “persons of good standing and unimpeachable character from the business and academic communities with experience and expertise in business, banking, finance , economics and management…” according to the Bank. Fofana has no real professional experience which he brings to the banking sector in Liberia which has been dogged by a “missing $16 billion” scandal. It is unclear if relevant authorities and citizens are aware of the information from the past of Fofana.

He has, however, transitioned to Liberia and is already functioning in his position which is considered critically strategic since he will have access to highly confidential information, contribute to decision-making and oversee general administrative operations at the Central Bank.

The Weah Administration has been dogged by charges of appointing incompetent individuals with no professional experience and in some instances, troublesome legal past.

liberia-political-map
Political Map of Liberia

In a separate development, Liberia’s Central Bank is establishing a “robust” credit reference system to help address the issue of non-performing loans (NPLs). President George M. Weah, in his State of the Union address on Monday, disclosed that the Non-Performing Loans remain a challenge for his government. CBL data showed total NPLs of total loans stood at 163% last April but declined to 12.3 % last July.

“The central bank is taking steps … to address the issue of non-performing loans,” the Liberia President told citizens.

(This story has been updated)

By Our Correspondents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Monrovia, Liberia

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia: “Missing Billions” Report In; Govt Allegedly Planning Against Opposition, Media

Monrovia, Liberia January 15, 2018: The Task Force constituted to investigate the missing $16 billion dollars in the West African country of Liberia has reportedly presented its findings to President George M. Weah in the capital Monrovia, according to an unimpeachable source.

Political Map of Liberia
Political Map of Liberia

The forensic report is expected to confirm that the printed Liberia dollars did come into the country and that over $2 billion Liberia dollars (LD) are actually unaccounted for and may be part of monies which came into the country after the inauguration of the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led government in January, 2018.

Shortly following disclosure of the “missing billion” scandal by an independent Liberian investigative journalist Philibert Browne of the local Hot Pepper newspaper last year, the Weah Administration instituted a task force to investigate the matter. The U.S. Government through USAID seconded forensic auditors to assist with the investigation.

Last September, shortly before departure to address the UN General Assembly in New York, President Weah addressed citizens on the “missing billions”.

“I asked all citizens to be patient and those involved in the investigation to be corporative. I am confident that in the end, we will come to a logical conclusion into the circumstances surrounding this money and if anyone is caught in any financial malfeasance they will be held accountable to the full extent. I can assure you, my fellow Liberians, proper accountability of the money in question is vital to my government’s ability to improve your lives. As we accelerate our investigation to which I have invited international partners to join in advising us to ensure transparency. Let’s us remain calm and have faith in the process. I believe that the mandate I received from you is a mandate to end corruption in public service and I remain fully committed to this task. I promise to deliver on this mandate and I will not let you down, the President said at the time.”

It can be recalled that on Monday September 17, 2018, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Monrovia issued a press statement in which it officially confirmed that an investigation of the matter was underway by multi-sector government agencies including the Liberia National Police, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) .

liberia justice minister counselor frank musa dean
Liberia Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean

“…Initial findings indicate that the containers and bags of money allegedly arrived between November, 2017, prior to the inauguration of the current Government and on August, 2018. Evidence available to the investigative team has established that the current administration was not informed about the containers and bags of money and bags of money into the country…” the Justice Ministry press statement said at the time.

Information Minister Eugene L. Nagbe around the same time and at the height of the scandal disclosure said, “We can confirm that the money was brought through the Freeport of Monrovia and the Roberts International Airport and for now we can confirm that the amount was L$16 billion. An estimate of a little over US$60 million as far as we are concerned from ongoing investigation as of today, and it came in the two ports of entry,”

But the country’s Finance and Planning Minister Samuel Tweah quickly dismissed the Information Minister’s statement in a radio interview on Thursday, September 20, saying, the  “missing billions” had been infused into the Liberian economy.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf  later dismissed any responsibility for the scandal saying it was a ploy to impugn her reputation.

liberian protesters - file photo
“Missing Billions” Protesters In Liberia

Our source in the Executive Mansion who is familiar with the report but not authorized to discuss it due to its sensitivity, told the West African Journal Magazine Tuesday that $1 billion LD is also unaccounted for from the  about $5 billion LD printed by the former Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration. About $10 million LD of $15 million LD which were allegedly infused to stabilize the Liberian economy is reported to be unaccounted for – no record, the source said, adding that the plan is to water down the report before release to say that “although the money is not accounted  it is not missing”.

Government spokespersons and controlled media have been instructed to push the narrative that “no money is missing”.

Opposition and Media

Allegedly, part of the Weah Administration plan to blunt the fall-out from the damaging report is a massive public relations onslaught to “kill public anger”, the source said. Protesters in September, outraged by the alleged “missing billions”, staged a peaceful march to demand accountability and return of the money.

free press
Free [Press In Liberia
Manifestation of the alleged plan also include discussions among CDC strategists and government functionaries to target vocal talk shows and hosts and to have critical content controlled through new restrictive media regulations, the co-opting of some “Government friendly” media personnel and financial strangulation of others, the source disclosed, adding that, “some businesses and government agencies are being called in and threatened and instructed to re-channel business to more government-friendly media houses. Some critical talk show hosts will be taken off air”.

A Liberia media executive and publisher of the of the independent Inquirer Newspaper Mr. Phillip Wesseh disclosed over the weekend that there was an attempt to “destroy” his paper with the sudden exit of about five employees who are planning to launch the “Independent Inquirer” newspaper. Accusing fingers have been pointed at the Government in the scheme to financially destroy the paper which was launched in October, 1990 during the height of the country’s civil war.

Wesseh has told the independent Daily Observer newspaper that the Inquirer will continue publication and is not worried about the exodus of some employees.

But publishers of the new Independent Inquirer newspaper have rejected claims that they were being used by the government operative to sabotage their former paper.

“Very harsh language and vocal language will be used including intimidation, family pressure and inducements against opposition operatives, if necessary, ” the source disclosed, saying that the aim is to harm their reputation and demoralize their partisans.

rep acarous gray and deputy minister samorra wolokollie
Rep Acarous Gray and Deputy Minister Samora Wolokollie

Over the weekend, a senior government official and Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) Samora Wolokollie and long-time CDC operative and Montserrado Electoral District #8 Representative Moses Acarous Gray  verbally attacked the  opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) leader Alexander Cummings, calling him a “bare-faced” liar”.

The two officials of the CDC government who appeared on the state-runned national broadcaster took issue with stinging criticisms leveled at President George M. Weah by Cummings who warned in an interview recently that “looting and stealing” in the Government has got to stop. Cummings’ statement drew favorable reviews from several quarters in and out of Liberia including social media.

The source alleged that government surrogates Ansu Konneh and Boikai Fofanna are the lead persons designated to “control the discourse on social media” in favor of the CDC led government.

West African Journal Magazine attempted but was unsuccessful in obtaining a response from the state house the Executive Mansion in Monrovia since no one was authorized to discuss the matter.

Liberians are anxiously awaiting the release of the contents of the report. There is no indication of a release date by the Government.

By Staff Reporter and Correspondents in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine

 

Liberia: Media Say President Must Keep Free Speech Pledge Real

Monrovia, Liberia: January 1, 2019  – After experiencing a difficult relationship with the George Weah’s government during the first year of his six-year mandate, Liberian journalists have unanimously agreed that inflammatory statements from several officials harm the President’s repeated pledge to support press freedom and free speech in the West African country.
Logo of Press Union of Liberia (PUL)
Campaigners for press freedom and free speech hailed Weah after pledging in his first inaugural speech last  January, to guarantee those basic tenets of democracy.
But his actions sooner than later went contrary to that pledge when Weah labeled government critics including journalists as “enemies  of the state.”
Weah’s charge went against journalists that reported plain constitutional breaches and probable corruption. 
Cabinet ministers failed to declare their assets on schedule in keeping with law while Weah himself reportedly declared his last July 26 after accountability campaigners coerced him.
His declaration, however, remains under seal and contravenes his pledge of government transparency.
Cabinet officials including Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, accused of shady financial deals, have joined the anti media chorus, vowing “to weaponize” (sic) supporters against critical journalists.  
As if these attacks against  the independent press and Mr. Tweah’s  sworn refusal to advertise in independent newspapers, all aimed to frustrate journalists, were not enough, the country’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe dismissed the journalists umbrella organization the Press Union of Liberia as “useless”.
Liberian Journalists At A Recent General Meeting – File Photo
In response to what Union executives call Nagbe’s “unethical comments,” they promptly suspended his traditional “honorary” membership after the Minister vowed not to apologize, saying that he would challenge the legality of his suspension in court.
Meanwhile, Liberia journalists experienced a “catch-22” scenario last Friday when President Weah, perhaps unaware of a previously scheduled PUL mass meeting, called Union members to disabuse their apprehension.
According to our correspondent in Monrovia, President Weah told the willing few who attended his meeting that “as a friend of the media I will always support press freedom… No journalists will go to jail during my administration.” But he warned that “journalists must always have their facts together and correct. “
As the bulk of Liberians is viewed as a gullible public that can quickly disown rights advocates and campaigners for justice and fair play, it would be unsurprising for media practitioners to sooner than later become cagey about their aggressive reportage.
Liberian Journalists Meeting President George Weah – File Photo
One media executive quoted long time multi party democracy rights advocate and politician the late Gabriel Baccus Matthews who warned decades ago about Liberians: “When you remove their roasted palm nuts safely from the fire, they hail you; but if your fingers get  burnt, they’ll say he looked for it.”
Tepitapia Sannah
Bureau Chief, Africa
West African Journal Magazine

Liberia: Two Former PUL Officials Say They Will Defend Right To Freedom Of Speech For All

Boston, MA USA December 28, 2018 – Two former officials of the Pres Union of Liberia (PUL) say they will continue to strongly defend the inalienable right of freedom of speech of every Liberian and the media, irrespective of whether views expressed are contrary.

PUL President Charles Coffey
PUL President Charles Coffey

In a press statement issued on Friday, December 28, 2018 from Boston, Massachusetts, the United States and copied to West African Journal Magazine, Messers Isaac Bantu and Emmanuel Abalo, two former Presidents of the journalists Union said their attention had been drawn to a decision by the PUL to suspend the membership of Liberia’s Information Minister Mr. Eugene Nagbe for a statement attributed to him in which he referred to the PUL as “useless”.

 The former PUL Executives said although the derogatory characterization of the Union by the current Information Minister was unfortunate and highly irresponsible, the attempt at curtailing his right to express an inconvenient view of the Union by suspending his membership pending his apology contravenes the very essence of the business of the PUL; to protect the alienable right of Liberians to freely and responsibly express diverse views through media reportage and serve as a watch dog in society.

 According to the two, the PUL has a duty to encourage and defend the right of every citizen who expresses an alternate view in the public square, even if that view makes the PUL, Government or public officials uncomfortable.

 

Liberia Information Minister Eugene Nagbe
Liberia Information Minister Eugene Nagbe

Meantime, Messers Bantu and Abalo have strongly criticized a statement calling for the expulsion of the Information Minister from the PUL without due process.

Liberians must be reminded, they said, that for some who are calling for the extreme position of the expulsion of Minister Nagbe from the PUL for expressing a contrary view, it was some of the same individuals who presided over the arrest, incarceration and mal-treatment of media personnel, including the closure of media houses for their reportage which were viewed as critical of past Governments.

The PUL must not be used to repeat the tactics of marginalization of free speech as was done in the past by public officials, according to the former PUL officials.

 “The current climate of intimidation and threats against the media as enunciated by senior governments officials are unacceptable and the Government of Liberia has a duty to protect all citizens, equitably enforce the Constitution and sanction its officials who threaten press freedom and media personnel. Freedom of speech and press freedom are scared rights that all Liberians should enjoy in a democratic environment,” the two media executives concluded.

West African Journal Magazine