The president of the Reporters Association of Liberia (RAL), Keith Zalee Morris, has contended that the declaration of a State of Emergency by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is not for the purpose of fighting Ebola, because a serious and committed government does not need such a declaration to combat a virus.
The actual intent of the declaration, he said, is to push forward the surreptitious saleof Liberia’s remaining oil blocks; to create a diversion from the issue of her son Robert Sirleaf’s ineligibility to contest the ensuing October 2014 Senatorial elections; while at the same time, and above all, to muzzle the press.
Addressing journalists at a press conference in Monrovia Monday, Mr. Morris noted that the Liberian leader did not show any degree of commitment to fighting the virus until it took away the lives of Patrick Sawyer and prominent medical doctors.
“No democratic state can grow in the absence of a vibrant and proactive media,” Morris said, adding that there can be no development if the media is being muzzled or harassed.
He reminded his fellow journalists of the likes of former Presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor, whose regimes were short-lived because of their decisions to clampdown on the freedom of the press.
“Today, the ugly face of the past continues to be visible in this modern day Liberia,” he maintained, alleging that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her sons, Robert and Fomba, backed by ‘a rubber stamp legislature’, have blacklisted over twenty (20) journalists and civil society actors ready ‘to be eliminated’ under this emergency period.
During her August 6, 2014 radio address to the nation announcing the State of Emergency, President Johnson Sirleaf stated that “Government will institute extraordinary measures, including, if need be, the suspensions of certain rights and privileges”, though she did not specify.
According to Morris, the National Security Agency (NSA), headed by Fomba Sirleaf, has a list that includes journalists Otavine Williams, Tetee Gebro, Charles B. Yates and himself, Keith Morris. Others include civil society actors Henry Costa, Vandalark Patricks, Mamensie Kabba, Archie I. Sanor, among others.
He said the NSA, with direct instruction from the President's ‘beloved’ son Robert, is keen on arresting these young men and women for their ‘critical postures’ on national issues.
“On Sunday, August 10, 2014,” Morris told journalists, “the list was again opened for discussion at a joint security meeting. In that meeting, the President's bulldogs agreed to unleash their ‘lethal weapon’ on the media.
“Interestingly,” Morris continued, “Deputy Police Director for Operations Abraham Kromah agreed to ‘single-handedly deal with those mentioned.’
“We are not deterred by such information because we know the ability and limitation of our security forces. We want to state here in the strongest terms that our government is after the media because we continue to expose the ills in our society as part of our sole responsibilities.
“In this critical period of our history, we wish to inform the international community, inclusive of the UN Mission in Liberia, the United States Embassy, European Commission, ECOWAS, African Union and the MRU, that the lives of journalists and civil society activists are under threat by those we employed to protect us.