President Weah, delivering the State of the Nation’s Address yesterday remarked that the Media is an indispensable partner to Government and will do everything to protect and guarantee free speech.
The Daily Observer welcomes President Weah’s comments but with caution. This is because this is the not the first time the President has expressed support for the Liberian media yet, policy actions by his officials tend to point in the opposite direction. Indeed the media can be a truly valuable partner to government, informing the people about government’s programs and policies.
While it is a fact that some journalists sometimes throw caution to the wind and indulge in sensational reporting which often draws the ire of government, it remains an incontestable fact that the Liberian media, with all its shortcomings, have over the years, done a remarkable job informing the Liberian people about government’s policies and programs.
The case of the missing billions is, for example, a case in point. Initially news of the missing money was first broken by a local media outlet, the Hot Pepper. Official denial was the first reaction. And then it was followed by admissions, also by government officials that money did indeed go missing.
Amidst the public outcry, the government announced that it was launching an investigation into the matter but it was also calling on the United States government to intervene and assist in the investigation.
But government spin doctors were already hard at work charging its detractors of promoting falsehoods and creating hype intended to undermine the Weah administration. The media or at least certain sections of the media were accused of fomenting dissent through their coverage of developments surrounding the missing billions.
In one breath the media was being praised for bringing the matter to public attention while in another breath, media institutions were being lampooned by government officials with some officials insisting that media institutions changed the narrative about the missing money.
Those media institutions which complied with this ultimatum were according to reports rewarded while those that did not were punished by withholding legitimate payments for services rendered — official government advertisements. These officials do this with the intention to bring such media institutions to their knees by withholding legitimate payments, being fully aware of the strangulating effects of their actions.
The Daily Observer is one such media entity which is being affected by such policy actions by government officials. This newspaper, by publishing government adverts without demanding payment upfront is indeed cooperating with government and helping its cause. Also, government functions and programs are also covered by the Daily Observer without charge as part of its news reportage.
Yet, for months on end, the Daily Observer has gone unpaid for services rendered and its legitimate payments are being withheld for no apparent reason other than its stubborn insistence on remaining true to its longstanding policy of fair, accurate and balanced reporting of the truth.
It is for this reason that the Daily Observer in the past has suffered arrests and imprisonment of its staff for its coverage of events and when all such appeared to fail, government agents resorted to the physical destruction and burning of the Daily Observer’s offices, not once but twice.
But rather than cowering in fear and answering to base commands, this newspaper has remained undaunted and shall continue to remain so even in the face of trying conditions being currently experienced. The Daily Observer welcomes President Weah’s remarks. We however urge him especially his officials to match policy pronouncements with action.