‘Liberian Media, Guard Dog for Highest Bidder’

2
4396
Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee

— Says Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, describes Liberia’s current governance system as a ‘pregnant rat democracy‘.

Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee has accused the Liberian media of being biased and a guard dog for the highest bidder instead of performing its role as a watchdog to expose the ills in the society.

Gbowee, who as a peace activist rallied Liberian women to pressure leaders into ending the country’s civil war, said the Liberian media landscape nowadays has become so compromised to the extent that it lives in the pocket pockets of politicians who pay them to distort the truth.

In her remarks at the 6th annual convention of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA), which was held virtually, Gbowee said: “the adage, the pen is mightier than the sword no longer holds true for the media with many journalists now diluting the truth in their reportorial duties.”

“The media is doing little to expose all of the ills in Liberian society, but instead some media practitioners and institutions have become the bark dog for politicians or those who are providing them financial rewards in society.

“The media again has become a guard dog for the highest bidder, in most instances politicians will pay them to distort the truth, leading desperate citizens astray.”

According to Gbowee, in Liberia, media practitioners who are often determined to expose the truth are discouraged by their peers as “carto now becomes the key to the media’s way of doing business. 

Impunity, entrenched corrupt practices are seen within the system from local vendors, police, the media amongst others.  We have neglected the rule of law; even worse, we’re still stuck in ‘that our time to eat’ mode.”

The 2020 ALJA National Convention was held on the theme, “The Media, the Rule of Law and the Culture of Impunity”.

Meanwhile, Gbowee in her rant against the government, described the country’s governing philosophy as a “pregnant rat democracy” which bites and blows, with the country’s leaders showing no interest in the Liberian people except during elections.

The Nobel laureate criticized the Liberian government for what she described as “entrenched corrupt practices and a culture of impunity” in the country.

“Also, there is widespread human rights violations, a terrible health and educational system and lack of proper redress for its citizens as other challenges facing the government,” she said. “The Weah led government has demonstrated a total lack of interest in prosecuting crimes in the country including corruption, noting that officials of government have neglected the rule of law and are instead focus on enriching themselves at the expense of the people.”

Gbowee, who has been a thorn in the fresh of the government, said Liberia has seen some very cruel leaders, “so it is laughable that Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah would be toying with the idea of making President Weah a benevolent dictator, even as the country grapples with the current challenges.

“It is sad but the current political situation in Liberia is dysfunctional, and that President Weah and the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) government seem to have no control of happenings in the country.

“Today it is not easy to describe what Liberia has in terms of democracy, thanks to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah. I know that they applaud him with the idea of the benevolent dictatorship but, for a lack of a better word, I will describe our current governance system as a pregnant rat democracy and this is coined by me, bite and blow,” she said.

Gbowee, who has had previous clashes with this government on issue of policy differences in recent months, stated in July that Liberia under the leadership of President Weah is a dysfunctional country and the leadership has failed to stand up or show leadership.

“We have a dysfunctional country. I’m sorry. Liberia is not functioning the way she should function,” she said during a live talk show via mobile phone on local broadcaster OK FM Wednesday, 22 July. She also criticized Liberian lawmakers for signing documents without first reading to make informed decisions before signing those documents.

The one-day virtual conference, held on Saturday, September 26, brought together veteran and up-coming Liberian journalists, as well as legal luminaries and academics from both Liberia and the Americas. In Liberia, journalists gathered at the YMCA gymnasium to grace the occasion and participate in the discussions.

Dr. Amy Hewitt, professor at the Institute of Community Integration at the University of Minnesota, urged the Liberian media to not only accurately report on issues affecting the disabled but to modify their storytelling format for people with disabilities to avoid stereotyping them.

Dr. Hewitt said media practitioners in Liberia must be knowledgeable about various conventions signed by the Liberian government, relative to human rights protection for individuals with disabilities and liaise with organizations engaged in working with the disabled community in order to spotlight their activities.

Other speakers at the ALJA 2020 virtual national convention included James Butty, long-time VOA correspondent; Madam Caroline Bowah, the Co-founder of the Liberia Feminist Forum; Cllr. Cyril Jones, associate professor of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia; George Patten, Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States; and Euriahs Togar, chairman of the Mass Communication Department at the University of Liberia.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Our private media is a commercial entity, thus should self-regulate via journalistic standards of impartiality, accuracy, fairness, and accountability, or otherwise open itself to these types of attacks. In one recent comment, I said that criminal justice system officials – police that investigate crimes and prosecutors who prosecute them – cannot break the law to enforce the law. Under the same token, media practitioners can’t be blatantly unaccountable, and then claim to hold others accountable: Hypocrisy.

    The habit puts trust in journalists in jeopardy at a time of hardships (plus toxic divisions) when safeguarding our democracy and “relative peace” ought to be led by a vigilant press informing an anxious citizenry. Of course, if acknowledged that private media is a business, the dismal economic climate also affects its bottom line. Not to talk of laws of supply demand impacting a space with mushrooming media outlets on top of funds owed them by government reportedly since 2013.

    To sum, the press can do better, but the government should help in making it whole by paying outstanding debts. Moreover, freedom of the press doesn’t mean certifying thirty or more media outlets in a Liberia with limited readership. The MRU basin appears to be under a dark cloud. Both leaders of Guinea and Ivory Coast are daring citizens of those countries with third terms whilst President Maada Bio is taking a risk by trying to suppress APC Party, the historical rival of his SLPP Party. Let Liberians look up, and watch the gathering storms over our neighborhood.

Leave a Reply