Was President Weah In Error For Asking The Media Out?

BY: JACOB N.B. PARLEY

On August 16, 2018, Liberian Chief Executive, George Manneh Weah, took what I will call one of the greatest decisions by inviting members of the opposition to round table discussions at the Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia, as part of ongoing efforts to share notes on crucial issues affecting Liberia.

On that day, I was at a private clinic taking treatment after being struck by fever for several days. But considering the importance of the announced meeting with the opposition, I managed by all cost to switch on the radio through my mobile phone to follow the developments.

There is a saying that journalism has no holiday, especially if an individual journalist wants to be on top of the trending issues.

Therefore, while undergoing the treatment, I was religiously following the process through OB teams from several radio stations, mainly the Liberia Broadcasting System and OK FM.

Thanks to all my colleagues for making some of us who were not there, especially the public for putting the President’s meeting with the opposition political parties to our door stairs through the magic of radio.

 President Weah sets pace for discussion:

As I was listening, the Liberian Chief Executive set the pace for discussions when he sought the intervention of God by asking somebody to offer a prayer. The prayer was offered and the President began by welcoming the group and acknowledged that such meeting was long overdue.

He continued by urging all the invited political parties to feel free to come out with good ideas  that will help in moving the country ahead, especially in the midst of the current unfavorable economic situation, etc.

The Former Montserrado County Senator continued by reflecting on the 2017 Electoral process and noted that what came out of the democratic exercise in 2017 has today seen him as the President of Liberia.

President Weah has repeatedly said he is willing to work along with everyone; and that he remains President for all the Liberian people once the electoral process is over.

He said moving Liberia forward will always require collaboration.

On this point I have always agreed with President Weah that we cannot build a better, productive and prosperous Liberian society in the absence of collaboration and I am also sure that nearly all of us back the President’s persistent calls for collaboration as he conducts the affairs of Liberia.

 Now the main issue:

The main reason for which I decided to pen this opinion is to give my idea on whether or not the President’s decision to ask the press out was wrong.

Listening to some of my colleagues, especially following the social media, I was wondering why some of our colleagues were raising issues with the President as if he committed a crime against the media community in Liberia.

There are a number of concerns or questions I have been asking myself since the issue came out.

  1. Is it the first time in our media history for members of the press to be asked to leave a gathering of such nature.

2.Doesn’t such thing happen even at international gatherings, for instance the United Nations?

3.Does asking the press to leave such gathering suggest that somebody does not respect or recognize the importance of the media?

These are just a few of the many concerns I have been pondering over since the August 16, 2018 Meeting with the opposition political parties in Liberia.

I initially wrote a small comment on Facebook, arguing that the President was not in any error.

However, now that I am back on my feet after several days of illness, I am now seizing a bigger, better and relaxed opportunity to expand my argument.

Conclusion:

As I gradually come to the fall of my article, let me say President Weah was not in any error for asking members of the press to  retire from the Bella Casa Hotel as they were about to enter  into another crucial part of the discussions with the opposition political parties.

The reason is that it is not strange for members of the press to be asked to give chance at certain level of discussions at such gatherings. Even at international fora.

For instance at the level of the United Nations, ECOWAS, African Union, etc.

The other issue is that the President did not apply any harsh words or sound unfriendly in his statement.

Instead, I listened to him, when he politely, and in the tune of respect appealed to the media to take leave of the gathering as, obviously they were now going to another stage of deliberations that did not require being done in the presence of the media.

My Experience:

1.I covered the 3rd Meeting of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent  Persons on the Post 2015 Development Agenda    in Monrovia in 2013 at the Royal Grand Hotel.

At   certain point of the deliberations, were asked to leave and I can’t remember people raining issues as they are doing with the recent meeting with the opposition political parties and the president.

  1. I was also blessed to have covered the 4th and Final Meeting of the same HLP in the Indonesian City of Bali, in March 2013 during Former President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf’s administration. At certain point of the deliberations, all the journalists were asked to leave and we did so without noise or issues being raised.

Normally at the end of such programs, briefing notes will always be provided by relevant authorities so that the media community is not left in the state of uncertainty or confusion over the outcome of these meetings.

These are just few of numerous examples I am providing.

Now, my argument does not suggest that I know it all, but simply to share my opinion and experience on the subject matter.

In my thinking, the only time we should raise concerns over such matters is if it is established that we are being asked out of gatherings of such nature with a mind set to stop the media from reporting the news.

Therefore, I want to seize this opportunity to call on fellow colleagues (journalists) to be mindful how and when to raise certain issues and in fact what kind of issues to raise.

It has been   established over and over that the media profession commands a lot of respect across the globe, Liberia being of no exception.

In as much as I welcome the role journalists have  playing  in sustaining democracy in Liberia over the years, including helping the CDC-led government to succeed by pointing out its gains and errors, we should be mindful of how to proceed.

The tendency of making noise out of noiseless issues could make people question our integrity, sincerity, objectivity and seriousness as members of the pen-pushing profession.

To borrow from Inquirer Newspaper Managing Editor, Mr.  Philip Wesseh, I rest my case!

The author, Jacob Parley, a   Certified Media Trainer  is a Former Vice President of the Press Union of Liberia, Former Secretary General to the Union’s  Training and Manpower Development Committee and Former Secretary General to the PUL committee that drafted the first Terms of Reference for Liberia’s first multistakeholder’s Media Complaint Committee,etc.

Jacob is reachable through 0886560455/0777604576/jacobtheancestor@yahoo.com

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