By: Staff writer
Monrovia—Recently, a young journalist was mysteriously murdered, by unknown men, and I can’t help it, as thoughts of threats against journalists, made by then Ambassador George Oppong Weah, in 2005 keeps coming to mind as a flash back. During the campaign for the presidential runoff elections between the only two parties standing, CDC and UP, the then CDC standard bearer Mr. George Oppong Weah, went to Nimba County that year and gave his campaign address when he said; “To journalists, remember life is reciprocal, today is your time to write all the negative things about the CDC, and tomorrow will be my time. You journalists will pay dearly with your lives if I become president tomorrow,” I was sitting in the office when our reporter brought the recordings and played it over and over and over, Weah threats towards journalists were unprecedented, and chills went through my spine and a jolt to my heart, who would have thought.
Here is how it all started in 2005, when I worked as the newly employed reporter for one of Liberia’s major daily. I usually stayed on late in the newsroom, because I was still learning news gathering at the time, so I often sat and watched reporters, who were considered old hands in the business, come from the field and compile their reports. Therefore, during the first electoral campaign that year, journalists from various media houses would go to cover the political party headquarters, and being that the CDC was action packed, many journalists used to go there for news. On the day, the CDC launched her official campaign, many partisans and sympathizers were seen jubilating and dancing excitedly on the main street in front of their party headquarters. Journalists covering the headquarters snapped photos and carried headline stories of the public display. As one of the definitions for news, is “News is anything unusual,” journalists were therefore reporting the events as they were unfolding before their eyes especially the unruliness of the CDC partisans. Mr. Weah was not happy with this, and he made sure he made this known to his party executives and journalists, who were quite taken aback by his brazen threats–link.
A week later, it was announced that there was to be a major press conference on the compounds of the CDC, so journalists were invited, because Ambassador Weah was going to be addressing the press. Journalists from every media house including foreign journalists rushed to the party headquarters for the press conference. No later did it turn out to be a set up for journalists who were now trapped and prevented from leaving the yard or the party headquarters. They were mercilessly flogged, on instructions from party officials, who instructed that both local and international journalists be hounded and in the process, their electronic equipments were destroyed. The destruction of the journalists’ tools was at the advantage of the party officials, as they said it was better because no bad news was going to be carried on their party, The Congress for democratic Change or CDC. Our reporter’s camera and recorder were destroyed in the process as he and others narrowly escaped for their lives.
Again In 2011, during his campaign address, President Weah said he was not going to prioritize press freedom and civil Liberties. Therefore, I am not surprised, if President Weah is making good on his promises of threats against Liberian journalists who have endured so much hounding from past Liberian administrations and that, he is not prioritizing press freedom, [eventhough he claims to be doing so,] when a journalist turned up dead by unknown persons spreading fear, censorship and intimidation amongst the fourth estate.
Note: with increasing threats and the recent death of Journalist Brown, presswomen/men are living in fear, I have therefore chosen not to attach my byline to this sensitive story.