Says newspaper “is against the NEC”
Jerome George Korkoya, chairman of the National Elections Commission (NEC), yesterday avenged his apparent long withheld anger at the independent Daily Observer newspaper, threatening to ban the media outlet from attending NEC press conferences. “We know the Daily Observer is against the Commission,” the chairman said over the phone.
Korkoya made the statement via mobile phone when NEC communications director Henry Flomo called the paper to ascertain its source for a story which quoted him confirming a run-off election on November 7.
Although the NEC chair did not explain why he believes the paper is against the commission, his outburst, however, was in reaction to a front page story the paper published in its Wednesday, October 18 edition under the caption: “Boakai, Weah Confirmed for Nov. 7 Run-off.”
Korkoya’s tirade came just days after the announcement of the preliminary results of 95.6 percent of the valid votes cast in the the October 10 presidential and legislative elections, which many contenders claim was marred by frauds and inaccuracies.
Observer’s Wednesday story cited an October 17 statement attributed to the NEC communications director, Henry Flomo, by the Associated Press (AP) news agency and was published on the Voice of America (VOA) website under the caption: “Liberian Runoff Vote On Nov. 7 with Weah Facing Boakai.”
In the story, it was reported that: “Election authorities say Liberia’s presidential runoff will take place Nov. 7. Henry Flomo, National Elections Commission communications director, said Tuesday that former international soccer superstar George Weah will face Vice President Joseph Boakai in the second round.”
Another news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP), reported the same information, which was published on News 24, which said “NEC announced the run-off on Sunday” (October 15).
Meanwhile, Korkoya and Flomo denied ever speaking about a runoff date to any media outlet. The NEC Chairman contended that the Daily Observer failed to contact Flomo or the commission for clarification, and rather published the story as reported by the international news outlet.
In Liberia, it is not uncommon for government agencies to release information to foreign media, leaving local media out of the loop.
In the recent past, the Daily Observer has tried on numerous occasions to interview the NEC chair on a number of issues the public had raised with the Commission, but did not succeed. Like Korkoya, other officials of government as well as politicians in these elections tend to prefer granting interviews to foreign news outlets rather than to local reporters.
“The apparent inconvenience borne by the NEC due to the Daily Observer not contacting Flomo or other officials for clarity was not malicious or intentional,” the Daily Observer said in an email to Flomo. “The Daily Observer is not against the National Elections Commission as Chairman Jerome Korkoya [said] during your phone call. We hope you all can disabuse yourselves of that notion.”