The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas(ALJA) says its attention has been drawn to the recent pronouncement by Liberia’s Attorney General, Counselor Benedict Sannoh that the Liberian government is to begin the prosecution of local journalists and media institutions that engaged in what he calls the “deliberate and blatant reporting of falsehood” in Liberia.
ALJA says it is deeply troubled by the Attorney General’s warning. The Association in a press release issued in Monrovia on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 said while it does not support ethical transgressions such as black mailing, fabrications, rumor mongering and the deliberate distortion of facts in the Liberian media, it is however, concerned by the unintended consequences the Justice Minister’s statement could have on free speech and press freedom in the country if, the reported plan is not reconsidered.
ALJA said no matter how well intention the pronouncement may seem for ensuring responsible and professional journalism in Liberia, the statement has the probability of being misconstrued and literally taken by overzealous security personnel and some public officials as a license for clamping down on the media and perceived enemies of the Sirleaf regime.
The Association said it would remain vigilant in working with the Press Union of Liberia(PUL) in condemning and opposing actions that are inimical to the gathering and dissemination of public information by journalists and media institution in Liberia. Meanwhile, ALJA is calling on Liberian journalists to remain fearless and professional in the execution of their reportorial duties.
ALJA further cautioned the Liberian press to strive in sustaining the Liberian peace and democracy by excising due diligence in their reporting about happenings in the country, especially when dealing with matters that have national security implications.
“Ensure that your stories are accurate and balanced through facts checking and the verification of sources,” the Association advised.
ALJA said the Liberian government and the press are not adversaries; and they must work in unison for a stable and better Liberia.
In a related development, ALJA has welcomed the exhaustive efforts the Liberian government is making in getting to the core of circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of the late former Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company(LPRC), Harry Greaves.
The Association said its welcomes the recent arrival in Liberia of two law enforcement officers from the US with the purpose of assisting local security officers in the ongoing probe of circumstances regarding the disappearance and subsequent death of Mr. Greaves.
The remains of the late Greaves was reportedly found on the beach behind the fence of the Executive Mansion on January 31, 2016 in Monrovia after his disappearance at the RL Johnson resort in Kendeja situated on the Roberts International Airport Highway where he was last seen on Friday, January 29th after his driver dropped him off.
ALJA also, described as laudable the decision by the Sirleaf government to bring in another US based pathologist for a second opinion, or the performance of another autopsy on the late Greaves’ corpse in determining the causation of death.
The Association than urged the government to take similar actions in addressing the mysteries regarding the deaths of the late Victoria Zazay, politician Fayiah Gbollie, Dan Orogun, expired Managing Director of the Guaranty Trust Bank in Liberia, and other Liberians, who also, in recent times, perished under dubious conditions like the late Greaves.
ALJA said it is imperative for the Sirleaf government to exercise impartiality in the probe of all suspicious deaths in Liberia because all human lives are precious and valuable regardless of the individual’s gender, race, ethnicity, and social status.
Meanwhile, (ALJA) says it is deeply concern about the security challenges that might develop with the departure of the United Nations Peace Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from the Country after June 2016.
The Association said the general lawlessness across the country are clues that there will be security challenges when UNMIL’s mandate ends before the presidential and legislative elections in 2017.
ALJA named the reported rise in ritualistic killings in rural Liberia, mob actions, and senior police officers involvement in armed robbery allegations as some of the challenges.
ALJA said given these unfortunate developments unfolding in the country, it is only appropriate that the United Nations Security Council suspends UNMIL’s draw-down at this time until after the 2017 Presidential and General Elections.
ALJA is a conglomeration of retired and current Liberian journalists residing in the Americas. The Association was founded in 1998 in Washington, D.C. ALJA seeks to foster camaraderie, peace, and unity amongst its members and their American counterparts. The Association is also, dedicated to the advancement of good governance, free speech, and press freedom in Liberia.