Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) Chief of Staff, Major General Prince C. Johnson, III, has reiterated its readiness to deal with people, particularly “politicians” who continue to make political utterances on issues relative to the security of the state, as doing so, without knowing the consequences, is tantamount to undermining the country’s peace.
Gen. Johnson’s warning came in the wake of a series of comments on radio phone-in show by people claiming to be politicians, but who are “absolutely ignorant of the inner workings of the military and the security sector of the country.”
He spoke on Monday, December 10, at the start of a two-day training for journalists under the title, “Defense Correspondents.” Gen. Johnson said that there are lots of “well-informed politicians,” some of them presuming to have close ties with state powers, but do not know the serious security implications of what they say on various media outlets, including radio phone-in programs.
“We are sometimes taken aback when we hear people, who are close to state powers, making remarks that could jeopardize the country’s security, particularly the AFL,” Johnson said.
He further stated that politicians tailor their views on issues of national concern to get votes, though, at some point, they might be right; but the majority of their comments are intended to gain them popularity.
It may be recalled that on November 26, the Chief of Staff assured Liberians and foreign residents of the AFL’s readiness to deal with any threat in the aftermath of the establishment of the war crimes’ court in the country. This followed what the AFL considered as a statement of threat in so-called ‘self-defense’ and ‘big mouth talk’ of anyone feeling threatened for their actions in the civil war.
Gen. Johnson then said, “Nobody can reverse our gains to peace, because we are trained to deal with any security threat, issued by a former warlord or whoever.”
At Monday’s event, Gen. Johnson said it will be fair enough on the part of journalists to contact relevant authorities within the military or at the Ministry of National Defense before reporting on issues of sensitive security nature to the public.
According to him, when there is any security issue, journalists should make it their duty to contact some former security experts in the country to get the appropriate information on related issues.
He said when information pertaining to the movement of troops is not properly handled with adequate knowledge, it could eventually lead to serious security implications, adding that politicians and other stakeholders should be speaking on issues they are well abreast of instead of commenting based on mere sentiments.
On the role of the media, Gen. Johnson said building partnership with the media, looking at the critical role it plays in information dissemination, is important in that the partnership between the media and the military remain cordial so that the public understands what the army is doing in terms of improving the livelihood of the citizens.
He said if information going out there pertaining to security is sent out wrongly, there could be chaotic consequences to undermine the country’s peace.
The two-day training aims to strengthen relations between the Liberian media and the AFL and to foster a better working relationship.
The gathering also seeks to discuss how the media, the AFL, and the Defense authorities can foster a better working relationship in the months and years ahead, with the media being used as a channel in reaching out to the public.
The MoD and the AFL see the media as a critical partner in the discharge of their duties. As such, a cordial and harmonious working relationship is important in helping the ministry and the AFL deliver on their statutory mandate.
Several topics, including “Understand the Military Environment,” “National Obligations in Handling Security Information,” the “Role of the Media in Reporting Security Issues,” and “AFL Legal System,” were discussed at Monday’s gathering.