Barely a month after President George M. Weah branded British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stringer Jonathan Paye-Layleh as “one of those who were against” his peace advocacy, Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee, has upped the ante, with a blistering attack on the Managing Editor of the FrontPage Africa newspaper in Monrovia.
Mr. Koijee is one of the staunch (loyal) members of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and also Youth League chair of CDC.
Mayor Koijee lambasted Rodney D. Sieh for what he termed as unprofessional attacks on the presidency and the denigration of initiatives by the government, including negotiations of about US$536 million needed for a proposed coastal highway, among others.
Mayor Koijee said it was unfortunate for Mr. Sieh to present himself as a champion of the cause, adding, “Do not use the media to launch your selfish, cruel agenda, because Liberia needs to be developed and this is the best moment.”
According to the Monrovia City Mayor, the media and the government remain strong partners and will continue to support President Weah in the development of Liberia, noting, “The media and civil society, including the religious community, are a vital force in building Liberia.”
Mayor Koijee said the Weah-led administration is not against the press and cannot be against the media. However he said it was unfortunate for few “redheads” within the media to continue to send negative statements or messages against the President of Liberia.
“We have great media practitioners in Liberia, including journalists Frank Sainworla, Dr. Kenneth Y. Best, the late Tom Kamara and many others who we continue to respect. You have a man, Rodney D. Sieh, who is currently presiding over or is owner of a residence that costs close to US$600,000, which requires investigation,” Mayor Koijee said.
“But there are people beginning to launch senseless attacks on President Weah’s reign. For instance, since President Weah talked about the building of a new Monrovia, fake media practitioners, who are pretending to be serious people, continue to give a negative information about the initiative,” Mayor Koijee said.
He indicated that there are polluted and contaminated elements within the media, who pretend to be media practitioners, and called on the media not to fall prey to such situations.
He said the real enemies against the media are those trying to use the media to propagate ugly or bad messages. However, he said they will not be tolerated by the people of Liberia, including the government.
Mayor Koijee said the CDC-led administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past government. But at the same time, media practitioners must continue to be very cool and sensitive, in order to raid themselves of those “bad elements,” among which, he said, is FrontPage Africa.
“We intend to bring forth a popular government, a government that cares for the people, and the government that will secure the survival of the people, looking at the 62 percent mandate given to President Weah by the people of Liberia,” he said.
According to him, the Weah-led government is prepared to change the living conditions of the people and give them the opportunity for a better hope.
But against this backdrop of scathing attacks on journalists and the media, beginning with President Weah’s recent attack on journalist and BBC stringer Jonathan Paye Layleh, there appears to be a growing sense of apprehension among journalists and the public at large. Many now wonder what lies ahead for the media, as well as for Liberia, under a George Weah’s presidency.
And this latest outburst from Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee against journalist Rodney Sieh, appears to signal what some have described as growing intolerance on the part of this government in regard to freedom of expression and all its ramifications (results). Moreover, the appointment to high positions of trust of key figures closely linked to war criminal and convicted ex-President Charles Taylor, in the eyes of observers signals a bad omen for the country and its future, particularly with regard to freedom of expression.
According to a longtime observer of Liberian politics and former professor of economics at the University of Liberia, Dr. Fred Vanderkraiij, President George Weah is either naive or calculated, judging by the appointments he has made in Government. Professor Vanderkraiij made particular reference to Charles Bright, whose appointment made him virtually a super minister, raising eyebrows far and wide.
Dr. Vanderkraiij fears that the rule of law under President Weah may be undermined by individuals whose records do not inspire confidence in attaining the goals of fighting corruption, ending impunity and promoting national reconciliation, as well as transparency, in public management.
He further opines that with the very weak separation of powers, weak rule of law and wrong people appointed, the country risks going down a slippery path, which may lead to a plunge into the abyss. Given such a disposition, and judging from experience, journalists and the media, first in the line of fire, may be in for a very rough ride, given the torrent of vitriolic attacks against media practitioners.
But journalist and managing editor of the FrontPage Africa newspaper, Rodney Sieh, appears unperturbed by Mayor Koijee’s outbursts. When asked by the Daily Observer why he did not prod Mayor Koijee to produce evidence of his wild claims against him, the Frontpage Africa editor said, “I am not going to say a word to Koijee and we will continue to do more investigative reporting,” which suggests, in other words, that Koijee’s outbursts is but a storm in a teacup.
Meanwhile, Mayor Koijee also lauded the World Bank and other partners for the level of support to the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) since he took over as Mayor.
Mayor Koijee said the World Bank and partners have been instrumental in ensuring that the waste management is successful.
He said despite the enormous challenges faced by the City of Monrovia, the World Bank and partners have been ensuring that those challenges are addressed.
“This coming first Saturday of April, we will be launching the second phase of the Weah for Clean City. We want to appreciate all of those who have been helping to ensure that this city does not remain like this,” he said.
According to him, the Armed Forces of Liberia has also committed itself in helping to carry on the cleanup campaign on Saturday.
“This phase will begin at the Freeport of Monrovia to Duala and to New Kru Town. We want to call on all business people and partners to give their cooperation as the campaign will commence at 7 a.m.,” he said.
According to him, the cleanup team will also visit Clara Town and its environs as a way of inspiring residents of the area and ensuring they form part of the process.
“We want them to take ownership of the ongoing initiative. We will also be collaborating with Paynesville City due to huge challenges in terms of cleaning the area,” he said.