-Executive Mansion Press Corps Raise Alarm on ‘insults’ against journalists by Deputy Presidential Spokesman Smith Toby and GSA Director Mary Broh
The Executive Mansion Press Corps (EM Press Corps), comprising journalists from various media institutions accredited to provide coverage of the Liberian Presidency, has strongly condemned the unprovoked verbal attack launched against its female members by the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary, Smith Toby.
Mr. Toby has also branded members of the group as “opposition journalists.”
He had asked the group to submit a name of a journalist to the office of his immediate boss, Solo Kelgbeh, for that reporter to travel with President George Weah to the United States to cover the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Press Corps’ leader, Samukai Dukuly, submitted the name of Journalist Denise Nimpson. Toby then made a sudden U-turn and began jabbering unfavorable comments against the female colleagues, and the entire media group.
Ms. Nimpson was finally rejected, because Toby had labeled female journalists in general as “a lazy set of people, who do not take their work seriously,” and that he “would not want any of them travel with them to the U.S. just to be taking selfie pictures.”
Mr. Toby even repeated these sentiments in a meeting with the group following Tuesday’s press briefing at the Foreign Affairs Ministry building, which houses the office of the President.
“We would like to make it clear that while we, the EM Press Corps, are cognizant of the fact that it is not our job whatsoever to select our member(s) to travel anywhere with the President — except that intuitions of individual reporters choose to underwrite the associated costs — we condemn the unwarranted outburst on us by Toby as not only outrageous, insulting, pejorative, provocative and uncivilized, but an attempt to undermine the “Feminist-in-Chief” acclamation being enjoyed by President Weah,” the Press Corps said in an official statement.
“Moreover, the herein mentioned actions by Toby, who often carries himself as de facto Press Secretary to the President, are equally detrimental, and counterproductive to the enormous efforts being exerted by the Government and its partners, including the media in making the entrenched culture of masculinity in the Liberian society a thing of the past to allow for actual gender equity, equality, and respect for women.
“We also consider Toby’s dangerous statement of calling us ‘opposition journalists’ as having the proclivity to compromise the safety of members of the EM Press Corps, because we come in contact with State security and protocol officers every time in the discharge of our journalistic duties, a call we owe to our country.
In the meantime, the Press Corps equally strongly condemns as an act of harassment of two of our members by the head of the General Services Agency (GSA), Madam Mary Broh, prior to the arrival of President Weah at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town on Monday, September 16, 2019 to grace the Extraordinary Session convened by the ECOWAS Parliament.
Before the President would arrive, our colleagues were duly screened at the first entrance by Executive Protection Service (EPS) officers but were stopped by other officers posted to the main doors to the conference hall.
Eventually, Madam Broh surfaced in an uncivil manner and instructed the security to push the journalists away. Our colleagues however complied and continued to display their professional identification cards including Executive Mansion Press Pass, but Broh could not stop bellowing at them condescendingly.
She argued the reporters should have been at the venue as early as 4:00 a.m. as she, a sexagenarian, has done. Even though our colleagues told her that all they needed do was be there before the President; but, Broh said: “I myself will tell President Weah that you are arrived here late.”
The journalists said as they keenly watched Broh woof at them, describing her demeanor as “a clear deal of abuse of power,” she, however, finally gave them access, but not without pouring a scorn on them after she saw the President disembark his vehicle and approach the building with his entourage.
The EM Press Corps says it sees “these regressive acts on the parts of Smith Toby and Mary Broh as avenues reawakening threats against journalists in the country. These are planned actions intended to hinder freedom of the press and dampen the recent steps by the Government to promote a society where journalists can carry out their duties without any form of fear or intimidation.
As a subset of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), we call on its leadership and all others concerned to seriously take note of these occurrences with an understanding that we now work in a fragile environment at the level of the Executive Mansion, given the actions of two government officials. No journalist deserves to be bullied or threatened in her/his line of duty.
In response, Smith Toby, who was out of the country, said told the Daily Observer via WhatsApp that he was not prepared to response to the statement until after his return.
Several attempts by the Daily Observer to reach Mary Broh via phone calls and a text message did not materialize. “Hi Hon. Mary Broh, the Executive Mansion reporters released a statement accusing you of publicly insulting journalists. The Daily Observer would like to hear from you,” a text message sent to Madam Broh read.