Using the media to destroy others: The case of the diatribes against Matilda Parker

Often, I feel very bad and totally perplexed in Liberia when undercover forces covertly use a newspaper or news outlet which postulates as an independent and credible media institution, to report on an issue that borders on the characters of others with apparent malice and prejudice.

The visible smear media campaign, wrapped in series of ‘news articles’ against Madam Matilda Wokie Parker, the now suspended Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA) published in the one of Liberia’s dailies, FrontPageAfrica newspaper are a case in point.

On April 23, 2015, the paper published its front lead story under the caption: “Grand Corruption Scheme Under EJS Nose.” In said report, the paper quoted a purported report from the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) as saying the anti-graft institution had issued a “Damaging report” on the NPA Managing Director, her Comptroller and Internal Affairs Minister Morris Dukuly, former Vice Chair of the Board of NPA in which it was allegedly recommended by the LACC that they should be charged for “violation of fraud on the Internal revenue of Liberia in the tone of nearly one million United States dollars.”

The paper, quoting ‘multiple sources’ insinuated in its story that the LACC final report, which has reportedly been submitted to President Sirleaf, may be “The last straw for Parker”, who it said “Has enjoyed a special presidential privilege  as one of President Sirleaf’s key confidantes and who also received protection from the President’s sister, Jennie Bernard.”

Indeed, the impression being created in the minds of any gullible reader is that Madam Matilda Parker is already guilty of the allegations as reportedly contained in the LACC’s so-called report.

However, one wonders what kind of presidential protection Madam Parker enjoys when the claims made against her are being scrupulously investigated in addition to her suspension by the Liberian leader from her job at the NPA.

Another aspect of the newspaper’s story which is mindboggling is that President Johnson-Sirleaf “Has already informed Parker that her “end is imminent”, but pressure was said to be mounting within presidential circles “to give her a soft landing.” By the way, why would the President of Liberia tell Parker who is a mere accused person that her end is near when investigation bordering on the NPA’s much-heralded corruption saga is ongoing and had not even been completed to determine whether or not the claims against her in the purported LACC report are authentic. Is this really a news story or a gossip, this is laughable, but at the same time is very serious because it borders on the hard-earned character of someone who has vividly distinguished herself by her words and deeds since her ascendency at the National Port Authority top post.

Be as it may, does that mean Parker’s fate had already been decided long before the ongoing probe as called for by the Liberian leader, commenced. Indeed, if we are to accept the report of the FrontPageAfrica as fact, we can soberly conclude that under the circumstances, and by all accounts, Madam Matilda Wokie Parker has no room for due process of law. I say this simply because, under Liberian law, any accused person is presumed innocent of any charge (s) made against him/her until proven otherwise in a court of competent jurisdiction.

In another news story, captioned: “Parker Back But Yet To Comment,” FrontPageAfrica reported “Parker who reportedly returned to Monrovia last Saturday on a Kenya Airways flight from Accra, Ghana, has not yet addressed the report or the findings with some sources suggesting that the embattled and suspended NPA boss may be awaiting an official submission of the report to the Justice Ministry by the LACC. FrontPageAfrica reported in that story that it had also been informed that the Justice Ministry is in the process of setting up blocks at the various entry points to prevent those named in the LACC findings from taking flight in a bid to avoid an Ellen Corkrum scenario.”

With this, I ask myself, why FrontPageAfrica did not ask Parker about her reaction when she returned to Liberia from Ghana via the Kenya Airways. Has the paper not considered it professionally relevant to ask for her reaction except to run to its usual “multiple sources” who are propagating that ‘blocks’ are being set up at various entry points of the country for she and others associated with the LACC probe not to escape the country.

For me, as a social commentator and free thinker, I feel the paper has not treated Madam Parker with a molecule of fairness in its series of news articles on the subject matter. This, in my candid view, is counterproductive to the ABC of the journalism profession that stresses Accuracy, Balance and Clarity.

Without any exaggeration, the way and manner in which FrontPageAfrica had unethically reported  and continues to report its “news stores” about Ms. Matilda Wokie Parker leaves no doubt in the minds of critical thinkers and keen observers at home and abroad that the paper is on a well-calculated mission to not only discolor the moral and professional credentials of this lady but also desecrate whatever gains she may have made over the years in the service of the Liberian nation, humanity and the larger society.

Undeniably, when it comes to any allegation from and by every TOM, DICK and HARRY against the lady called Matilda Parker, FrontPageAfrica, with terrific speed, often rush to press with “news flash” without attempting to achieve a balance, accuracy and/ or clarity by just hearing from the accused party in line with best journalism practice worldwide.     

For example, on April 1, 2015, the President changed the Chairman of the Board of Directors of NPA, Tornolah Varpilah and subsequently replaced him with Henrique Tokpah. Instead of accurately reporting this presidential change as it occurred, Frontpageafricaonline published a “news story” with a caption: "Parker Out" rather than Varpilah out. After calls from many quarters of the Liberian society and beyond about the glaring inaccuracy of the paper’s headline, it made a face-saving correction.

Also on Friday, May 31, 2013, a clerk from the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice on Capitol Hill in Monrovia served a Writ of Summons against FrontPageAfrica, indicating that Ms. Matilda Parker, the now suspended Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA), had filed a lawsuit against the paper for libel. Ms Parker had sued because FrontpageAfrica, per its unprincipled tradition, had published a tirade against her, depicting nothing but vulgarities such as "an old Monrovia prostitute.” Later, FrontPageAfrica apologized to Ms. Parker and pleaded for mercy from Ms. Parker, a move which was wholeheartedly accepted by a tenderhearted Matilda Parker.  

Nevertheless, since that court filing by this lady, FrontPageAfrica has found every means un-journalistically, to lash at anything related to this woman to pin her down the gutter. Here we are again. Two weeks ago, Frontpageafrica published a ‘story’ from a so called Final LACC Report, which stated that the MD and the Comptroller were hooked for a “Grand Corruption Scheme under EJS nose.”

With vivid demonstration of all these ethical transgressions, I began to ponder over the followings: Did Rodney Sieh, the author of these stories against Matilda Parker practice fair journalism? Are his intentions primarily geared towards assassination of her character? Why did the LACC boss wait for whole two long weeks to set the records straight with respect to the diatribe-styled news story published by the paper against Parker and why did he tell the Voice of America (VOA) press that he would prosecute if the Ministry of Justice did not, ect., ect., ect…

Perhaps, we need to take view of some of FrontPageAfrica’s way of reporting on its targeted enemy, Madam Matilda Parker:   

Although I have not interacted with the lady called Matilda Wokie Parker, and do not have any relationship with her, but, I think, as a Liberian citizen, she deserves a fair treatment by the independent media and under the laws of the country. In the first place, why compare Parker with Ellen Corkrun whose purported escape from Liberia to the United States after her official indictment on multiple criminal charges by the government was said to be at the behest of some senior Liberian officials? Matilda Parker may have left the country after her suspension but she came right back. This proves her courage and determination to clear her name by facing her accusers to substantiate whatever claims they made have against her. Over the years, she proved herself not to be a scavenger but a woman whose commitment to national responsibilities and priceless service to humanity is beyond question.     

Hence forth, I urge these handful of individuals including the undercover forces who are ensuring the demonization of others for pecuniary gains by furtively using the pen, to take succor in the words of presidential press secretary Jerolinmek Piah when he recently said:  “The suspension of the Managing Director of National Port Authority (NPA), Matilda Parker, and others by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf does not in any way suggest that they are guilty of committing any crime. He said the suspension of Parker was based on the findings of an investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), and as such, Liberians must follow the subsequent probe as has been instructed by the President.”

He stressed that if Parker and the other suspended officials were found guilty of committing any acts of corruption it would have been unnecessary for President Sirleaf to instruct the Ministry of Justice to collaborate with the LACC and all accused persons associated with the investigation, to inform additional actions, should they be required.

According to Piah, although the President recognizes the fact that the suspended NPA Managing Director is “a very talented and astute personality under whose stewardship great progress has been made at the NPA, she has no other option but to act appropriately in the midst of reports emanating from the LACC.

To me, all of these mean, that those hiding under the cover of darkness and are clandestinely using the media to throw stones at Madam Parker, while at the same time they are hiding their hands, must desist now and let the law take its course. Furthermore, I wish to warn those in the media that have fallen prey to this devilish design to adjudge Madam Parker guilty before even being afforded the opportunity to be proven innocent, to remember, that the journalism profession is a noble one that calls for justice and truth-telling at all times. Please beware that the journalism profession is not for money gobblers, who would scoop low at very condescending depths to grab any penny and publish trash and diatribes against others, even to the peril of their victims’ hard-earned reputations.

Article written by T. Jolopley Nyonkon

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