For the Good of Your Government Rein in Minister Rennie’s Horses, Mr. President!

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For a government beleaguered on all sides by a host of seemingly intractable problems, one would think that a war with the press would be the last thing on its laundry list of things to do.

This is because experience has shown that government invariably loses the fight, although it may succeed in shutting down radio stations, banning journalists or even physically attacking or killing them, in the end the government always loses the propaganda war.

But just why would the Minister of Information, absent any semblance of due process order media institutions to ban the airing or publication of material produced by its strident critic, Henry Costa. Costa’s radio station has since been shut over a year ago but critics claim that the action by the GoL was illegal because of the lack of “Due Process” attending its closure. And they have cited Constitutional provisions, Article 15, specifically.

Article 15 (a): Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.

(b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to Knowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.

(c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.

(d) Access to state owned media shall not be denied because of any disagreement with or dislike of the ideas express. Denial of such access may be challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(e) This freedom may be limited only by judicial action in proceedings grounded in defamation or invasion of the rights of privacy and publicity or in the commercial aspect of expression in deception, false advertising and copyright infringement.

From what it appears, the banning orders issued by the Ministry of Information borders on illegality although, it posits however wrongly, that due process requirements had been fully complied with. But just why would a government, constantly flailed by human rights issues, preoccupy itself needlessly with stifling voices of dissent, in this case, Henry Costa and D-15 Radio?

This is even more baffling because such action will only serve to attract ever more enemies for government and more besides, it will serve to encourage an active rumor mill peddling gossips and whatever to discredit the government and undermine its legitimacy.

Recalling history, Master Sergeant Samuel Doe made vigorous attempt to muzzle free speech. Arrest and imprisonment of journalists, arson attacks on media houses and physical assaults against journalists were commonplace.

Eventually Doe succeeded in muzzling a free press but there were pushbacks. An underground publication styled “REACT” soon emerged with scathing attacks on the  government which were popularly acclaimed.

The point being made here is that if this government continues to muzzle mainstream media, an underground media will emerge over which this government will have no control. The rise of social media and citizen journalists have opened a very wide range of platforms available to ordinary people to get their ideas across.

This is of worrying concern because there are no indications that the currently dismal economic situation will see a sudden change in fortunes. And as we know it, deteriorating economic conditions can lead to a rise of fascism.

Such were the conditions that created the likes of European despots Adolf Hitler, Franciso Franco and Benito Mussolini, Doe, and Taylor, bringing the matter to home. And now this latest development, according to analysts, strongly suggests that Liberia could once more be headed down this path.

But it appears that most government officials, President Weah included, do not seem to recognize the potential danger in treading this path. Now whether President Weah personally approves/endorses the action by Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie that has seemingly cast the government immediately into an adversarial posture with the media, remains unclear.

Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon was right, analysts say, and his view that this government, President Weah’s government, is hated to the core although the Liberian people love him is resonating even more strongly with the people.

In the view of a longtime Public Relations consultant, Costa’s popularity is likely to surge as a result of this banning order against him while the reputation and standing of this government appears more likely than not to wane considerably.

Be it as it may, President Weah should remain mindful of the implications for his government. He probably ought to be reminded that Liberia is a signatory to the Table Mountain Declaration. More importantly, it was he who signed the Kamara Kamara Press Freedom Act into law and cannot afford, therefore, to be seen in violation of provisions of the Declaration.

In view of this, the Daily Observer would urge President Weah to instruct/order his Information Minister to rein in his horses because his action tends to cast President Weah in a negative light as a budding autocrat with greedy appetites difficult to whet. For the good of your government, rein in Information Minister Rennie’s horses Mr. President!

5 COMMENTS

  1. Although solidarity among journalists sound sensible, restricting Costa, who makes money abroad solely by inciting business-killing protests and threatening insurrection at home, is a welcomed step. Universally, free speech and freedom of the press have limitations regardless of whether our media landscape accepts that as factual, or not.

    Postwar fragile Liberia needs journalists imbued with ethics of their profession, or otherwise media “messages that promote violence”, and hate speech would become the staple. We expect cops to not break the law while enforcing it; shouldn’t we ensure that those holding power to account must be accountable, too. Indeed, it’s impossible talking of responsibility to media elites convinced of fighting “a propaganda war” with government. But in that engagement the loser is concord, and consequently our country.

  2. If this was the Ellen’s administration, I bet Moses would have been in the vanguard giving all kinds of frivolous constitutional justifications for why there should be no “lid” placed on free speech.

    Now that the government is under Weah’s dispensation, and it is strongly perceived by the public and the international community as a mirror image of Doe’s former fascist regime, he flipflops and says, “… Universally, free speech and freedom of the press have limitations regardless of whether our media landscape accepts that as factual, or not.

    This is duplicitous Moses. Why under Ellen did you support unbridled freedom of expression, but now under Weah, you are supporting the quest for that right to be curtailed?

    This is a typical hallmark of an unprincipled individual! A principled person will not vacillate on his or her stance regardless what the situation may dictate.

  3. “No lid placed on free speech“ IS A NON ISSUE in this matter! The fundamental issue is that no sovereign government can ever be an accomplice in obstructing justice by whatever means or even acting or deciding in manners or conducts which may be tantamount to preventing the apprehension of a fugitive…a Portuguese fugitive at that!

    Accordingly, all should assimilate that FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS A NON ISSUE HERE!

    Now, as usual, some will always present themselves THE hypocrites and ignoramus they ARE. Hence, like the laymen they are, they ARE intellectually unable to articulate what THE ISSUES ARE!

    The issues ARE..

    (1) WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE INFIDELIOUS OR VIOLATIVE OF THE CONSTITUTION BY AIDING AND ABETTING A FUGITIVE OR IN SHORT, OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE BY..

    (2) the government permitting that radio station or any radio station to host the fugitives program, would not the very government be betraying the laws of the land, setting a dangerous precedence, and IPSO FACTO CONCEALING OR AIDING AND ABETTING THE FUGITIVE, AND ALSO PREVENTING THE APPREHENSION OF THE FUGITIVE? AND..

    (3) By the government allowing a fugitive and that radio station or any other radio station host the program of the fugitive within Liberias territorial and extraterritorial jurisdiction, would not the very government be conducting itself UNDER INCHOATE OFFENSES as a principal in both the first and second degrees, and also an accessory before the fact and after the fact viz the flouting of the law and the offenses and violations of the FUGITIVE?

    Those half baked journalists and chronic stooges and opportunists and followers of past political flunkies and corrupt bastards who have milked the state, to the three issues, should the government listen to the stupidity from dullards like you and those other DULLARDS calling yourselves “former media executives“, this government would be in a nutshell, violating the constitution and flouting statutory laws by concealing and aiding A FUGITIVE, while at the same time, ENGAGING IN THE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE!

    THAT PORTUGUESE FUGITIVE SHOULD GO BACK TO HIS PORTUGUESE VILLAGE AS A RETURNEE! BUT AS FAR AS LIBERIA IS CONCERNED HENRIQUE PEDRO COSTA THE PORTTUGUSE EXTORTIONIST IS A FUGITIVE!

  4. Weah cannot dismiss Rennie. Why? He is one of his staunchest mouthpieces and a faithful disciple. Now, don’t this guy fit in as an ideal CDC propagandist for the Pro-Poor government and the transformation of the Liberian state into a “benevolent dictatorship?”

    So then, those are the qualities Weah needs in a person, who may aspire to be his information minister.

  5. It is a blessing for a government to be at war with a “ media or a press which has become a guard dog for the highest bidder which in most instances are paid by politicians to distort the truth, leading desperate citizens astray”, if we may quote Leymah Gbowee.

    Accordingly, it is

    (1) editors and reporters as these ones we have here with Daily Observer who like rogue and incompetent political misfits as Nyonblee Karngar Lawrence, Darius Dillon, etc, who in their hypocrisy, idiocy, leadership incompetence, and diabolical agenda, want Government to be an accomplice in

    (2) their silly and criminal minded scheme in obstructing justice by preventing the apprehension of a fugitive a Portuguese fugitive at that Henrique Pedro Costa because the fugitive will be a hired gun in their diabolical agenda and constitutional crimes.

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