National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman Jerome Korkoya is no stranger to the Daily Observer. He once told to its Publisher that Korkoya’s father religiously brought home the newspaper in the 1980’s for him (young Jerome), his siblings and the rest of the family to read.
So why is the NEC Chairman attempting to repeat the history he knows so well, by demonstrating his presumed ignorance about the way the international media works?
There have historically been five international news agencies: Reuters, the British news agency and the oldest of them all; Associated Press, United Press International, both American; Agence France Presse (French); and the former Soviet News Agency Tass, now the Russian News Agency. These were the five international news agencies that supplied news around the world on a daily, even minute-by-minute basis. Since the advent of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1940s, TASS put out mainly Soviet propaganda. So did another Communist news medium, the Beijing-based New China News Agency. This one put out mainly anti-Soviet polemics.
So the rest of the world relied mainly on Reuters, AP, AFP, UPI and sometimes the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) for news.
In the 1960s at the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs (DICA), now the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), there was a special room in DICA’s Press and Publications Bureau that housed all of the five major news agencies, plus DPA.
It was these news agencies that have over the decades supplied the world’s media institutions—newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations with news on a minute by minute basis, and these dispatches were used immediately upon receipt, because they were relied upon for truth and accuracy.
It was, therefore, no surprise—and no big deal—that the Daily Observer found and used the AP story last Tuesday evening quoting NEC’s Communications Officer Henry Flomo divulging the news of the impending presidential run-off between Congress for Democratic Change’s George Weah and Unity Party’s Joseph N. Boakai, the two presidential candidates that have, according to NEC, been reported as having emerged as the parties with the most votes in the October 10 elections, out-polling all the others.
Mr. Korkoya was probably still in the United States when the 2005 and 2011 elections were held. But he could have reckoned that the leading Liberian newspapers, including the Daily Observer, the Inquirer, New Democrat, Front Page Africa and others effectively covered those elections, administered under the NEC Chairmanships of Counselor Frances Johnson Morris (now Allison) and James Fromoyan, respectively.
Newspapers and other media rely on the international news agencies and other reputable media for news. And world newspapers also quote one another. The aim is to get the news as fast as possible to keep ahead.
It is also to be noted that many Liberian and other African politicians and institutions often prefer to divulge important news to foreign rather than local media. We don’t know why. But we find the news whenever and wherever we can. Tuesday evening’s find was no exception.
As for Mr. Korkoya’s threat against the Daily Observer, to “ban” the newspaper from covering NEC, he should know that that is nothing new. Remember we were banned from covering the 1985 elections that fraudulently brought Head of State Samuel Doe to presidential power. Why? Because they knew the plans they had to rig those elections, they took a preemptive strike against the Daily Observer by banning the newspaper in January 1985, several months long before the elections. That was the fifth time the newspaper was closed down, under the watches of Doe’s three powerful Attorney Generals—Chea Cheapoo, Isaac Nyeplu and Jenkins Scott.
Nor should Mr. Korkoya forget that there was far worse to come—several imprisonments, including Mr. Best and his wife Mae Gene and their secretary, reporter Cynthia Greaves, advertising agent Bendu Fahnbulleh plus several members of staff—where? In the Post Stockade (the male staff) and the CID Cell in Mamba Point, the stinkest cell in town. Worse yet, Mr. Korkoya, we suffered three arson attacks, the last of which totally destroyed the Daily Observer.
But where today are all of the perpetrators of all these evil acts against this newspaper?
The Bible says, “You shall seek for them and they shall not be found.”
So go ahead, Mr. Korkoya, and “ban,” once again, this long-suffering Daily Observer.
Don’t ever forget, however, that this, too, shall pass.