ALJA says Cllr. Cephas’ “ill-conceived pronouncement” runs contrary to the rule of Liberia and the principles of good governance in Liberia. At a Press Conference conducted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Monrovia, the Solicitor General, who is also the Liberian Government chief Prosecutor, threatened to shut down and seize the equipment of media institutions that would broadcast or publish what he called “fake news”, during the ongoing State of Emergency.
ALJA in a press release issued on May 6, 2020, condemned in the strongest term Cllr Cephas’ threats against the media; and called on Liberians at home and abroad to speak out against pronouncements and political actions that are meant to cow the Liberian media into submission. ALJA says the Solicitor General’s threats are intended to intimidate and silence the Liberian media.
The Association says enemies of the Liberian media are attempting to use the current state of emergency declared in an effort to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus as an excuse to muzzle and ultimately silence the press. The organization reminded the Solicitor General that the Liberian constitution remains in effect; and urged the government to seek the appropriate legal recourse if, it feels aggrieved by the conduct of media institutions relative to their reportage.
The US-based Liberian Journalists Association said the Solicitor General’s threats were particularly troubling given Liberia’s recent ugly past where freedom of speech was suppressed and Journalists were imprisoned and suffered at the hands of regimes with dictatorial and tyrannical tendencies. The Association urged Cllr Cephas and other officials of the Weah Administration who are hell bend on muzzling the media and are consistently engaged in anti-media rhetoric to reflect on the country’s terrible past and desist.
ALJA says threats against Journalists from the Solicitor General and others could further explain the recent wave of physical assaults against Liberian journalists by members of the security forces for which a Presidential Commission was recently established to investigate. The Association stressed that the role of the media is to gather and accurately report about happenings in the country without fear or favor.
The Association further noted that the Liberian media has ethical and professional obligations to ensure that political leaders in the country are held accountable in keeping with the rule of law and the principles of democracy. ALJA called on the media to hold sacrosanct its ethical responsibilities and eschew actions that are inimical to the profession.
ALJA notes that democracies ultimately suffer when journalists become targets of the powers that be as being done in contemporary Liberia. The Association said while enormous strides have been made in the attainment and sustenance of press freedom in Liberia over the years, those gains were not achieved on a silver platter but were made possible by the sacrifices of many journalists, past and present; many at the peril of their lives.
ALJA said that all Journalists and Liberians of goodwill should ensure that the gains made over the years in consolidating free speech and freedom of the press are not reversed.