Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) has expressed serious reservation over the autopsy report recently released by the Liberian authorities of the four government auditors, who died last October in the country under mysterious circumstances.
The Association says while it welcomes the the report, it is recommending the commissioning of an independent investigation into the matter with the sole purpose of uncovering the truth into the circumstances that led to the auditors’ unexplained deaths.
In a press release issued on December 1, 2020, the Association said the outcomes of the government’s financed autopsies into the deaths of the auditors raised more questions than answers. ALJA says the glaring inconsistencies in the report create the impression of an attempted coverup.
The American-based Liberian journalists’ organization says like most Liberians including family members of late auditors, it finds it difficult to accept and believe the findings of the autopsies without an independent probe because of the government’s failure in unraveling past secret killings and the absolute loss of confidence in the criminal justice system of the country by most Liberians.
On November 24, 2020, the Liberian government through the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Frank Musa Dean, released the autopsy reports of the deceased auditors. In the reports, the government attributed the auditors’ deaths to unnatural circumstances.
Minister Dean claimed that late Mrs. Gifty Lama and Mr. Albert Peters of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), whose remains were discovered in a vehicle on Broad Street on October 1, 2020, died as a result of carbon monoxide inhalation from gasoline/hydrocarbon fumes and fumes from defective exhaust system in the floor of the car.
In the reports, the Liberian government also claimed that the former Director General of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), Emmanuel Barten Nyeswa, died as a result of massive hemorrhage; multiple bony and soft tissue injuries and blunt injuries consistent with fall from height.
The IAA former Director-General died on October 10, 2020, at the JFK Hospital in Monrovia after he reportedly fell from the escape door of his bedroom situated on the first and only floor of his family’s residence located on the 72nd Boulevard in Paynesville. According to the Liberia National Police (LNP), the distance from the escape door elevation to the ground is a little over 13 feet.
The government’s sponsored autopsy report was therefore unable to determine if the late Nyeswa’s death was homicidal or suicidal. Regarding the late LRA auditor, George Fahnbutu, the government’s paid pathologists cited his death as accidental.
They concluded that he sustained injuries to his head, chest, and abdomen. The cause of his death was attributed to right frontal cerebral contusion and disruption of brain, with haemorrhages; right frontal complex depressed comminuted fracture; vehicle in a head collision and side-impact with the house; and road traffic accident.
The Association expressed disappointment that the government did not aggressively seek an expansive probe of the investigation to include representatives of the US Embassy in Monrovia, the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), the African Union, (AU) ECOWAS as well as representatives from the Inter-Religious Council and Civil Society Organizations in the county.
In a related development, ALJA says it is dismayed over the repeated harassment and intimidation of local Liberian journalists by some officials and supporters of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC).
The Association says the reported actions of these individuals undermine press freedom, free speech, and Liberia’s fledgeling democracy. ALJA said it is troubled that some individuals, especially public officials are using their positions in government to drive a wedge between the CDC administration and the Liberian media through the propagation of falsehood against journalists and media institutions that are committed to unearthing bad governance and shady deals in the public sector.
The Association named the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Commissioner-General, Thomas Doe Nah, who recently accused the editorial staff of the independent FrontPage Africa Newspaper of maliciously doctoring an LRA internal memo with the sole purpose of maligning the CDC administration at home and abroad.
FrontPage Africa in its November 16th edition of the Paper quoted an LRA internal memo which revealed how millions of US and Liberian dollars accounting for taxes paid and deposited in the Liberian government-operated transitory accounts at various commercial banks in the country in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but were not remitted to the government’s consolidated revenue account at the Central Bank of Liberia(CBL).
ALJA said the LRA Commissioner General in the absence of evidence, claimed that the Newspaper deliberately fabricated the story with the sole purpose of portraying the CDC government negatively at home and abroad. The Americas based Liberian media organization described Mr. Doe Nah’s pronouncement as ill-advised and unfortunate.
ALJA says it supports the FrontPage Africa management and editorial staff in their quest of unearthing shady deals and bad governance in the public sector. The Association also lauded the Paper for its balanced, accurate, objective, and critical reporting about happenings in Liberia and abroad.
Meanwhile, the Association is calling on public officials that are fond of threatening and tailing Liberian journalists, who they erroneously perceived as enemies of the Weah administration to desist.
ALJA says such action endangers the safety of Liberian journalists and their respective families. The Association also maintains that the action of these government officers and supporters violates the rights of free movement, free speech, and association as enshrined in the Liberian constitution.
ALJA named veteran talk show host, T-Max Jlateh, of Sky Communication and journalists Gloria Tamba of Spoon FM and TV, Christopher Yarwoe and Zahn Dehdyugar of Magic FM, as some of the Liberian journalists that have in recent times being allegedly tailed by individuals believed to be supporters of the Liberian government for their critical and independent reporting about happenings in the country.