Monrovia, Liberia –-The Association of Female Journalists in Liberia [Fejal] is facing mounting public criticisms for accepting: a building, bus and land donated by President George M. Weah last week. Posters on social media are savaging the journalists for “compromising” journalistic ethics. At a fund raising program last week, members of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FEJAL) were surprised by the President who made the donation. The newly constructed headquarters, were presented to FEJAL in fulfillment of his promise when President Weah was then a Senator, according to reports.
In a social media post on, Monday a member of FEJAL, one Jennie Fallah Wounuah defended their acceptance of the “gifts” when she wrote, “PUL requested the President to build their headquarters den da FEJAL supposed to reject the gift? We remain independent, FEJAL is not a media institution to censor individual female Journalists reportage. There was no MOU signed to silence females in the media with the building. This can in no way compromise our judgment as female journalists. We remain independent,” she concluded.
The President of FEJAL Siatta Scott-Johnson, in accepting the “gifts”, promised that their reportage would not be compromised. But the gesture is reminding Liberians of a prior episode when the umbrella organization of journalists, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in 2008 solicited and obtained a $100,000 USD donation from former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for construction of their national headquarters. The PUL has yet to account for the expenditure of the funds, as the money was stolen by the leadership of the organization.In 2014, the Press Union of Liberia undertook efforts at Liberia’s Senate to have it consider for budgetary support, to facilitate its work.
The efforts for budgetary allocation to the union in the national budget is yet to gain traction in the Liberian Assembly. Recently a local daily, the Inquirer Newspaper accused the Government of an orchestrated attempt to ‘destroy” its independence when it poached employees to abandon the paper and formed the “Independent Inquirer” newspaper, the move came after Fianace Minister and a close aide to President Weah, Samuel D. Tweah promised to weaponized the ruling establishment against the Liberian Media.
Critics of the Government say the Weah Administration is going all out to silence dissent in Liberia through the use of “soft power” and economic strangulation of the independent media and journalists. But the Government says it is committed to the defense and promotion of free expression and press freedom. In late February, President Weah signed into law a bill to amend sections 11:11, 11.12 and 11.14 of the criminal code which prescribed prison terms for a range of free speech offenses in Liberia. The country’s Senate endorsed the bill in February of this year followed by concurrence of the House of Representatives. In March, 2019, the bill known as the Abdulai Kamara Act of Press Freedom to decriminalized free speech, was signed by President Weah into law as his commitment to upholding press freedom, according senior officials within the Weah led government. By Our Correspondent in Monrovia/Story/African Star
Main Pic/President of FEJAL Siatta Scott-Johnson,