Free Speech Goes with Free Read: Debunking the CDCian Forced Readership Policy


By Samson Wonnah

Critics have consistently predicted a doomsday on the horizon for a country which economy has been badly crippled; where billions have reportedly disappeared in public coffers in broad daylight; and where inflation has hit an all-time high.

I see all of these worsening trends and developments, but one thing that turned me off suddenly in recent time is the editorial I read in the March 18, 2019 Edition of the CDCian a forth night ago. Horrible in content and ridiculous in reasoning, the article is pointedly reminiscent of a dooms-day omen.

It appeared under the title, “We Will Expose Government Officials Bent on Betraying the CDC Government!” As a focus of the article, the paper expressed frustration and disappointment over failure of some government officials to subscribe to the CDcian.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is named as one of those government ministries where officials have shown lack of interest in reading the paper. The editors concluded that those officials found evading the paper were secret enemies of the government and that they also were seemingly guilty of undermining the class struggles in which the government is locked into with “remnants and sympathizers of the settler regime.” The editorial thus vowed to expose all government appointees found shying away from reading the paper. The idea of having a partisan-based news outlet-such as the CDCian- though unpopular, is not altogether uncommon.

Over the course of history, even in the West, we have witnessed several news outlets and agencies develop the costly identity of having alignments with political establishments. There are news organizations branded liberal or conservative in Europe and in America, based on their perceived political and ideological leanings.

For instance, in the U.S., Fox News and MSNBC are among a few news agencies widely believed to express sympathy with the Republican party and to appeal to party’s readership. Similar beliefs are held for Cable News Network (CNN) and a few other news agencies toward the Democratic Party.

The Voice of America (VOA) established in 1942 to keep Americans abreast of war information and advance the Allied Force’s interests, has since sustained the seemingly unwanted and often critiqued reputation of being a propaganda machine for American foreign policy.

But there is essentially a vast difference between what is mentioned above of “media bias” and public suspicion toward those news organizations and the glaringly erroneous pathway the CDCian has chosen to travel. That a newspaper would begin soliciting readership with the use of threats and intimidation, is a worrisome development that tends to undermine and contradict the very essence of press freedom as well as fundamental universal human rights principles.

Freedom of the press, yearned for globally and often championed by the press itself, is rooted primarily in the ideas and necessity for plurality of views and diversity of opinions. A society that fosters press freedom is one that allows for a free flow of divergent views and ideas without any restraints or reprisals mainly from political forces.

Likewise, the choices to read, view, or listen to news content and opinions rest squarely with the individuals, and no one should be coerced in any form to subscribe to any media content. Imposing readership or viewer-ship amounts to a violation of the rights of the individual.

Editors at the CDCian reason that newspaper readership should be a matter of reciprocation of goodwill for those given government jobs or those benefiting from the ruling party. Referring to officials they accused of lacking interest in the paper, they wrote, “They are in power because of the CDC victory in the 2017 elections.

If there were no CDC government, they would never have had the slightest chance to enter government, more so in such big positions. I wonder how different is this assertion from claims that critics have made repeatedly that most of those in government are less deserving of their jobs? I also wonder how possible can one determine that the other person is reading just because they subscribe to or have a text to their face? Like any other businesses, newspaper have typically acquired readership or expanded their client portfolios through effective marketing. And there are three key factors that play into effective media marketing: price, quality, and credibility, with the latter occupying a remarkably essential position.

Credibility is inevitably what instills public trust in the media. Of course, as highlighted above, an individual news organization can decide what editorial policy or identity to adapt, but this always comes at a cost.

The public obviously is the judge and when credibility gets injured, trust declines and readership dwindles. I came across a classic example of this recently via Facebook, where the Washington Post was advertising subscription for a fee of $1 per week. The response from the reading public (ostensibly American) was quite shocking! About 80 percent of the thousands of respondents to the post perceived the newspaper as lacking in credibility and regarded it wasteful to spare a dime on the it.

The CDCian should learn from this. People have tastes and those wanting to sell their products should not neglect quality. Political appointees, CDCians or not, have the right to choose what they read or not. Threats issued by the CDCian are yet another indication of how many things have gone wrong with this country. They are an affront to and a mockery of the journalism profession and require prompt condemnation especially from media authorities, including the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Ministry of Information.

We need to sound a strong alarm now or else journalism in this country will evolve into something else. Free speech, which is a bedrock of journalism and of media advocacy, comes along with free read. Newspapers are not forced on  people to read.


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