Liberians at Samuel K. Doe Sports Stadium in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, celebrate bicentenary and ties to the US…
A Patriot’s Diary with Ekena Wesley
When President George Manneh Weah embarked on his hastily arranged 2020 Tsunami defeat of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) in the Special Senatorial elections, he successfully amassed media executives on his political bruise-easing county tour. By then, media executives were in the good graces of the CDC-led government. A Patriot’s Diary received grotesque bashing for reckoning why media chiefs on the county tour were filing pro-government syndicated reports. Such are the trappings of the doctrine of criticism and self-criticism as it were.
The quest for a genuinely independent media in the small West African nation has been a struggle unabated. Media independence in Liberia is debatable. The government essentially has at its beck and call all the advertisements that must economically sustain the media. Most often than not a regime would choose to strangulate imagined or perceived enemies of the administration. We saw a sharp difference during the presence of one of the largest United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in the world (UNMIL). So, there was a competition as it were. That market soon disappeared with the departure of UNMIL.
Unlike Nigeria and Ghana, with huge economic activities, classified ads come in their droves and the market is so huge that media independence is visibly competitive. The media in Nigeria and Ghana also own individual printing houses that allow them to execute contractual agreements from multiple private sources. The public surely has the right to decide based on the quality of reportage. In Liberia, the media rely heavily on the government in terms of ads to survive.
Amid poor, inadequate, and hasty planning, some crooks in the CDC government saw the organization of a series of Bicentennial events as a fiscally rewarding venture. The planning of one hundred years of existence is not a child’s planning. But criminals with preconceived intent embarked on a project obscurely divorced from proper, adequate, and research-incensed planning and programming. Planning a big event as such in less than a year was foolhardy and insane, folks. Whoever thought as they did simply brought embarrassment to the nation.
The so-called bicentennial of Liberia could not have made the needed impact without the involvement of the media. As always, a last-minute dash to co-opt the media was initiated. In spite of the last-minute chase, the media rose to the challenge to propagate whatever the administration saw fit in the eyes of scores of foreign guests that had descended on the former Grain Coast.
But the bicentennial has come and gone amid the fanfare that characterized the retinue of events staged. There still remains unfinished business. In the planning process, the media submitted its budget of a little over US$66,000.00 in light of the news coverage, classified ads, and commentaries. Without hesitation, the media budget was immediately approved by the bicentennial planners. Certainly, while the categorical approval of the media budget was one thing, it was too early to celebrate when the eggs had not hatched. Disturbingly, the eggs failed to hatch.
But the chicken had been nursing the moment for the eggs to hatch anyway. The affected media, through the publishers association, have chosen to go rogue as a result of the inability of the government of President Weah to deliver on promises made. Nowhere in the world, the independent media would befriend any government. As the Fourth estate of the realm, the onus is on the media to hold governments accountable by checkmating the various institutions of governance – executive, legislature, and judiciary without fear or favor.
The media outrage went across unfavorably six newspapers as depicted in the banner headlines of Tuesday, November 2, 2022. indeed the media will not let this matter die a natural death after all. Pay the publishers whatever dime you owe them. They worked and must be paid. They have staffs to maintain! They must pay bills as well!