ALJA Calls on NEC for Free, Fair 2023 Elections

—-Recognizes journalists Kenneth Y. Best, Isaac Bantu, and Gabriel Williams for the formation of ALJA and their contributions to journalism in Liberia.

The president of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), Joe S. Mason, has called on the National Elections Commission (NEC), headed by Davidetta Brown-Lansana, to ensure a free and fair 2023 general and presidential elections process in the country.

Mason’s call was contained in a speech delivered at the annual fundraising banquet of the 2022 national convention of ALJA, held at the Armenian Church of Our Savior Banquet Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA.

His statement focused on the theme, “Sustaining Liberia’s democracy now and in the future, the media and the 2023 General Elections.”

However, Mason said, with elections just over a year away, they are concerned about the credibility of the process.

“Truth be told, we are heavily invested in this process because, though we are thousands of miles away, we remain inextricably linked and impacted in more ways than one by the events unfolding in Liberia,” he said.

Mason further used the occasion to acknowledge President George M. Weah’s message at the United Nations General Assembly, in which he promised all and sundry that the elections would be free.

Going forward, the ALJA president urged the Weah government to make good on that promise by providing an enabling environment for everyone, including the opposition.

“We know all too well that our country before the civil crisis has had a checkered history when it comes to the conduct of elections that are deemed free, fair, and transparent,” he said. “I am reminded of the elections of 1985. We can state unequivocally that this tumultuous history contributed to our current civil crisis.” 

According to him, the reason he chose to focus on the 2023 general elections was to keep in mind that these are consequential elections in which transparent conduct or lack thereof could either solidify or reverse our country's democratic gains.

“We will also continue to explore ways of partnering with other civil society organizations to ensure that issues that could potentially disenfranchise the electorate and infringe upon the integrity of the electoral process are brought to the attention of the government, the citizenry, and the international community,” he vowed.

Pledging ALJA's commitment and support, Mason said, as Liberia heads towards elections in the next 13 months, he cannot emphasize enough how important the role of the media will be as the ‘proverbial’ watchdogs of society in shining a spotlight on the issues, the candidates, and the process before and during the actual conduct of the elections itself.

He said ALJA’s response to this pressing need is to increase their direct support to the media during the year in the form of logistical supplies worth thousands of dollars.

ALJA, he said, intends to increase their support and meet some of those needs as best as possible to ensure that the media is performing its responsibilities in a fair, balanced, and ethical manner.

“All of that will require support for the media in the form of training and logistics. Many of our colleagues, especially those working outside Monrovia, lack some of the basic tools, including micro recorders, to carry out their reportorial duties,” he said.

Mason also publicly acknowledged and recognized the pioneering roles of the following individuals in the formation of ALJA and for their contributions to journalism in the country: veterans Kenneth Y. Best, Isaac Bantu, and Gabriel Williams, who were ALJA’s first President, Vice President, and Secretary General, respectively.