The editorial board of one of Liberia’s diaspora news online, the African Star Newspaper says it is very alarmed by reports that a senior Liberian Government official, State and Presidential Affairs Minister Mr. Nathaniel F. McGill, has chosen to describe the paper as a “criminal entity”.
Below is the statement published on the paper’s website:
We consider such irresponsible utterances by a public official as endangering the lives of journalists of the media house and can be viewed as a direct assault on a critical institution of democracy in the West African country.”
Quoting the Liberian Constitution, the African Star Newspaper Editorial Board said Mr. McGill should be acutely aware of, is clear on the rights of freedom of speech and press freedom which are inalienable to every Liberian and the promotion of good governance, noting, “We remind Minister McGill that Liberia is still grappling with a difficult re-emergence from a painful past of instability and persecution of critical voices.
We strongly believe that it is unacceptable for a senior government official to use his public office to threaten free speech with the view of intimidating an independent media entity to compel its silence like in the case of the FrontPageAfrica. Such threats will not and cannot be accepted because the independent media is under obligation to champion the truth no matter who is involved.”
We register that Mr. McGill and the Liberian Government will be held responsible for any harm that comes from their threats and endangerment of the wellbeing and persons of the publisher and staff and of the independent FrontPageAfrica news entity.
We urge the Liberian Administration of President George M. Weah to condemn such irresponsible threats from his Minister of State and publicly re-commit to defending the free expression of critical views which can only strengthen the democratic dispensation in the country.
We wish to also remind the Weah administration that these levels of threats have the potential to undermine international goodwill and economic support which are vital to the country’s recovery and which the West African nation and people stand in need of at this time to sustain Liberia’s post conflict democracy.
We at the African Star Newspaper and African Star Online stand in solidarity with the publisher, editors, reporters, correspondents and staff of FrontPageAfrica during this unbearable period.
We believe that today’s threats are directed at FrontPageAfrica. Unless the government and its senior officials are kept in check, these could gradually be extended to other media institutions which could be dangerous for our young democracy.
We therefore call on Human Rights Watch (HRW), the U.S. State Department, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), Amnesty International (AI), the International Justice Group (IJG), the United Nations, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the European Union (EU), the US Embassy in Monrovia, ECOWAS, AU, Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the international community to speak up threats against the media and its personnel in Liberia.