Authorities of the Ministry of National Defense (MoD) on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, clarified that a statement attributed to the Chief of Staff (CoS) of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Major/General Prince C. Johnson, III, as published in the Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Observer newspaper was taken out of context, “because he did not threaten ‘politicians’ in any form or manner.”
According to the Ministry, Gen. Johnson’s statement called on media practitioners to promote a cordial working relationship with the security sector, particularly the AFL, instead of taking stories from “politicians” whose intentions would mostly be to gain the confidence of voting populations.
While the story in itself was accurate, the MOD felt the headline, as attributed to Gen. Johnson, was misleading, because he did not threaten to deal with “politicians” for whatever opinions they might have expressed against the security of the state.
“We have a problem with the headline,” Collins said.
At Monday’s event, Gen. Johnson said it will be fair on the part of journalists to contact relevant authorities within the military or at the Ministry of National Defense (MoD) before reporting on sensitive security issues.
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 appropriate information on 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 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 because of the partnership between the media and the military and must remain cordial so that the public understands what the army is doing in terms of improving the livelihood of the citizens.
The two-day training aims to strengthen relations between the Liberian media and the AFL and to foster better working relations.
The gathering also sought to discuss how the media, the AFL, and the Defense authorities could 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 their cordial and harmonious working relationship is important in helping the AFL deliver on their statutory mandate.
Several topics, including “Understanding 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.
Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Minister for Administration, Tibli Olandrus Dickson, has described journalists as people tasked to play a critical role in ensuring the peace and security of the state.
Dickson’s statement comes in the wake of comments made by a Representative on a local radio station that the ministry was training some militias at one of the AFL training facilities.
Minister Dickson said that it was unfortunate for a journalist to host such a person who does not have any knowledge or know the consequences when a prominent person, particularly a lawmaker speaks on security matters on the radio or tells the newspaper without underlining the consequences to national security.
“The training that was taking place at the AFL facilities was not militias training or recruitment, rather a training of some Executive Protection Service (EPS) officers, and that the graduation was even witnessed by some legislators,” he clarified.
Dickson then called on journalists to be patient whenever they want to get information, particularly when it relates to security or the military because some of the information you may hear from the army are “strictly confidential and not for public consumption.”
He said because of the critical role journalists play in ensuring the security of the state, it is necessary to partner with them to ensure that the right information regarding the safety of the state is made public. On the development of the military, Dickson said the soldiers are no longer considered as ‘uneducated’ as they were being described in the past, adding, “Today, we have a professional army, some are medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professional marines.”
Minister Dickson said that the AFL has representations at the African Union and at the United Nations where they are contributing immensely to the development of the state.
For his part, Daniel Nyan-Konah, secretary-general of the Press Union of Liberia, who proxied for the president, Charles Cuffey, lauded the MoD authorities and the AFL for training journalists on how to report on military issues.
According to Nyan-Konah, the two-day training provided to the Liberian journalists was groundbreaking, because the world today is more competitive, and therefore, urged his colleagues to be innovative in projecting themselves when it comes to the interest of the state.