The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas(ALJA) says its attention has been drawn to the recent pronouncement by Attorney General, Counselor Benedict Sannoh, that the Liberian government is to begin prosecuting local journalists and media institutions that engage in what he calls the “deliberate and blatant reporting of falsehood” in Liberia.
ALJA says it is deeply troubled by the Attorney General’s warning. The Association, in a press release issued in Monrovia yesterday, said while it does not support ethical transgressions such as blackmailing, fabrications, rumor mongering and the deliberate distortion of facts in the Liberian media, it is however concerned by the unintended consequences the Justice Minister’s statement could have on free speech and press freedom in the country if the reported plan is not reconsidered.
ALJA said no matter how well intentioned the pronouncement may seem for ensuring responsible and professional journalism in Liberia, the statement has the probability of being misconstrued and literally taken by overzealous security personnel and some public officials as a license for clamping down on the media and perceived enemies of the Sirleaf regime.
The Association said it would remain vigilant in working with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in condemning and opposing actions that are inimical to the gathering and dissemination of public information by journalists and media institution in Liberia.
Meanwhile, ALJA is calling on Liberian journalists to remain fearless and professional in their reporting. ALJA further cautioned the Liberian press to strive in sustaining the Liberian peace and democracy by exercising due diligence in their reporting about happenings in the country, especially when dealing with matters that have national security implications. “Ensure that your stories are accurate and balanced through fact checking and the verification of sources,” the Association advised.
ALJA said the Liberian government and the press are not adversaries and they must work in unison for a stable and better Liberia.
In a related development, ALJA has welcomed the exhaustive efforts the Liberian government is making in getting to the core of circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of the late former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC), Harry Greaves, Jr.
The Association said its welcomes the recent arrival in Liberia of two U.S. law enforcement officers for the purpose of assisting local security officers in the ongoing probe of circumstances regarding the disappearance and subsequent death of Mr. Greaves.
The remains of Mr. Greaves was reportedly found on the beach behind the fence of the Executive Mansion on January 31, 2016 in Monrovia after his disappearance from the RL Johnson Resort in Kendeja situated on the Roberts International Airport Highway, where he was last seen on Friday, January 29 after his driver dropped him off.
ALJA also described as laudable the decision by the Sirleaf government to bring in another U.S. based pathologist for a second opinion, or the performance of another autopsy on the late Greaves’ corpse to determine the cause of death. The Association urged the government to take similar actions in addressing the mysterious deaths of Victoria Zazay, politician Fayiah Gbollie, Dan Orogun, Managing Director of the Guaranty Trust Bank in Liberia, and Atty. Michael Allison who also perished under dubious conditions like the Greaves.
ALJA said it is imperative for the Sirleaf government to exercise impartiality in the probe of all suspicious deaths in Liberia because all human lives are precious and valuable regardless of the individual’s gender, race, ethnicity and social status.
Meanwhile, ALJA says it is deeply concerned about the security challenges that might develop with the departure of the United Nations Peace Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from the country after June 2016.
The Association said the general lawlessness across the country is a clue that there will be security challenges when UNMIL’s mandate ends before the presidential and legislative elections in 2017. ALJA named the reported rise in ritualistic killings in rural Liberia, mob actions, and senior police officers involvement in armed robbery allegations as some of the challenges. ALJA said given these unfortunate developments unfolding in the country, it is only appropriate that the United Nations Security Council suspends UNMIL’s drawdown at this time until after the 2017 Presidential and General Elections.