Seriously contemplating formulating strategies that would help attract, if possible, the entire business population to the IN PROFILE DAILY of Publisher Carlton Boah to at least to support our efforts at remaining on the Liberian market, given the high production cost being experienced, though individuals outside the journalism profession may think that it is rocks that are used in the process, it became quite touching to have heard on the broadcast medium and equally read in newspapers yesterday that the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT), Rev. Dr. Laurence K. Bropleh, has reportedly halted the printing of The Broom and Bilingual newspapers for reasons still inconceivable.
Given the vast knowledge and experience of Dr. Bropleh about the democratic concept, having been involved into its practices at the international level, moreso at the United Nations and against the glaring backdrop of government's affirmative resolve to ensure press freedom throughout its tenure, as demonstrated by the multiplicity of media institutions throughout the country, it is still doubtful as to why would the Information Minister elect to do such at this point in time when government has begun making tremendous gains in many sectors, inadequate as the national budget continue to reflect in the immediate postbellum.
Perhaps awaiting the regular press briefing today to adequate address himself to the allegation, since there exists no circumstantial evidence at the IN PROFILE DAILY, no have we conducted investigations to truly establish the facts, the fact that it has gone into print as well as on radio has made it a professional obligation to flex the fingers in helping members of the Liberian media continuously work in a more congenial atmosphere as begun since the ushering of the democratic dispensation.
Drawing unforgettable lessons of past decades in which it became quite common for government to clamp down on media institutions at will, most times with absolutely no legal basis other than not becoming praise-singers, a practice that often subjects leaderships to easily crumble since they are easily blinded to mistakes adversely affecting their functions, one needs not be told about the consequences as the past imbroglio in Liberia would have been avoided had leaders not taken the media as "enemies," or as had been referred to those years, "anti-government."
Not fond of repeating articles many times produced, especially since the 1990s to date, it however becomes an imperative to revisit some of the man-made entrapments with absolutely no legal basis instituted against the Liberian media in the past. Besides, calling the names of many institutions and individuals that had been victimized by the dictatorial onslaught cannot continue to remain the case because of space and time, coupled with the many reconstruction challenges facing the post-crisis nation in which the Media must equally be in the forefront.
For the benefit of our readers, however, an overview of activities of the Liberian media specifically during the period of the 1980s proved a "bite and blow" scenario in which the conventional, unlike the unorthodox format in news reporting, with the 'John Brown has said or commended' becoming more or less an order, as if journalism was not a profession but some form of petty-trading job, at least it can be proudly said that the democratic era has since watched "angles" to stories used in various mediums with fantastic headlines that could not have been practiced in the past.
Using my mentors, Messrs Kenneth Yarkpawolo Best, Stanton Bayogar Peabody, Dr. Isaac Thompson as living evidence, since Mr. Rufus Marmah Darpoh and Theodore Maxson Teah have since gone to the great beyond (May peace be to their ashes), entering the Newsroom for the first time after serving as Chief Typesetter for nearly two years, a report that was intended for publication following my return from the Republic of Germany in 1983 after an Economic Development Seminar became the first threat received from government, having attempted in Part One to simply provide vivid aerial description of Liberia to Abidjan, the Ivory Coast.
The message came loud and clear that had I continue the report and made the simplest mistake about those in power to appear ugly, which was not truly the intent but to compare the beauty of Abidjan to what Monrovia had now appeared, I would have been "killed like my father," meaning the Rev. Dr. William R. Tolbert, Jr. or my uncle, forcibly-retired AFL First Sergeant Flomo Kesselly who was found mysteriously hanged in Slipway.
Consequently and against the urge of curiosity to become professional on the job, it only served as first lesson, although not afraid at all, since I knew nearly all of the leaders before they became Generals, Colonels and Captains. Of course, reasons for the number of closures and detentions experienced by the Daily Observer Newspaper during the period became obvious, witnessing the late Brigadier General Thomas G. Quiwonkpa and Samuel Kanyon Doe, both of whom I knew so well from the Barclay Training Center (BTC) during the early 1970s, paying visitations to the establishment.
Since then and up to the point of helping establish The NEWS Newspaper of Mr. Wilson K. Tarpeh in 1989, many other incidents occurred but could no longer have me deterred because I had gained some level of professional background to the credit of the Daily Observer, coupled with other administrative and technical positions occupied at AGRIMECO and the Lofa County Agricultural Development Project (LCADP), having begun practicing since 1973, even before graduating from high school.
Perhaps, if one would like to verify the information, Messrs Alhaji Garxim Vamuyan Kromah, II, Morris M. Dukuly, James Dogba Yassah, Counsellor Dahn, Johnnie McClain, Jeff Mutada, Francis Carbah and many others are still around to attest, having used the library at the Ministry of Information to begin the practice and serving as Corresponding Secretary of the Inter High School Journalistic Association (IHSJA), with the late Information Minister Dr. Edward Binyah Kesselly offering jobs to two members of the association in 1973, using the late Mr. Rufus Darpoh as conveyer to a meeting held, thus witnessing Mr. Dukuly, then at St. Patrick's and another from Lott Carey, as senior officers, employed at MICAT.
Other journalists also face the wrath, with the late Charles Gbeyon becoming the most shocking to practitioners, notwithstanding detention of the staff of the Daily Observer at Post Stockade for nearly two weeks and that of the late Mr. Darpoh been sent to Camp Belle Yella for imprisonment.
In short, what is being conveyed is that the Liberian media have threaded a long and very rugged path to reach this far and cannot now return to the days of old in which individuals with the least knowledge about Media activities but are financially potent can establish anything and call it a newspaper, moreso with those charged to conduct the day-to-day activities not having acquired the professional knowledge, most times committing ethical transgression to their unacknowledgment; but ignorance to the law us no excuse.
Regarding the current situation at hand involving the two print mediums, it is only worth helping educate the public and other colleagues who "may" not have come across what is considered prior restraint, since the scenario tends to suggest that it is precisely the charges being brought against Minister Bropleh and not necessarily the Unity Party-led administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Simply summed, rather than preventing the publications of two mediums of our colleagues, two of who I do know so well, had government wanted to even attempt at that, restraint by taxation would have become quite sufficient to close most institutions down.
Mass media, the world-over, are guided by laws, no matter the gullibility of Liberians who at times threaten to take media institutions to court but after a period of time, the threat soon becomes like opening a hot Coke bottle that foams and settles.
True that many Liberian journalists have had outside exposures, where in the world have they found media institutions going beyond the national interest? Problematic headlines are created but looking through the contents, one is able to easily determine that thoughts and expressions are guided by media law, to be on the safe side. Interestingly, and not at all funny, the biggest law that many of us know is defamation, constituting slander and libel per se and quod. Insufficient!
While many have tended to disregard the principles of the Veil of Ignorance that demands treating everyone without differentiations, it also holds --- and our young and upcoming cannot be blamed because they have not been properly exposed to the legal ramifications of the practices of the Mass Media --- that under the principle of Self Determination, one cannot continue to treat people as means to an end.
The challenge, therefore, remains that with the Press Union of Liberia which this writer once served as President during the crisis period, though overthrown just like his father for no justifiable reasons other than power-greed, simply having been asked to contribute to the peace process in Liberia by then Vice Chairman Alhaji Kromah, everything should be done by the Union to begin visiting media institutions and simply requesting to see their written editorial policies.
Not at all strange to older practitioners and not intended to "blow my own horn," since nobody has blown it in many years anyway, especially as a Johnny Walker in Monrovia, President Sirleaf is truly one person worked with in the media over the years who possesses a fine character and believes in the rule of law that often sums to good governance.
It is at all no magic but when an individual has committed himself or herself to the learning process in order to become professional, it becomes very hard to suave from the course. Thus and very far from politics, the "older boys" in the noble profession can attest that she has been what she was and will continue to be, because her true calling to national development that has seen her in various international circles over the years continue to win admiration not only to her personal being but the nation as a whole.
To therefore attempt anything funny intended to becloud the Unity Party-led administration, knowing where we have come from and where we must reach to the satisfaction of all Liberians, in spite our vocations --- perhaps the bucks are now on the loose --- and not taking into consideration the fact of "trial and error days" are over, one can only thank God that Education has since been prioritized by the administration.
The construction of a new University of Liberia campus in Fendell that will allow thousands to acquire sound knowledge thereat, occurring at a time that Dr. Emmett Dennis is now President thereat, it would amount to nothingness should individuals not take full advantage and stop the guess work around Liberia. Better still Professsors Joe Worlobah Mulbah, Mrs. Weade Kobbah Wureh, Lamini A. Waritay, James Wolo and several others could be of more help to those still finding their way through the mainstream of the profession.
Inasmuch as traditional chiefs and Zoes are prepared to return to the classrooms to learn how to at least write their names and understand English, what more about those whose responsibilities are largely to inform, educate and entertain the public about events occurring within their environment. Aging I may appear, with problems to finding ways and means in educating my many children and grandchildren, one must not be fooled by the devil that because many of us did not sit in classrooms at our local universities, we are blind to our professional calling. It requires many years of studies either on the job or what Ms. Christine Tolbert Norman often encourages Liberians to do: "Reading and Writing."
In conclusion, however, whilst thorough investigations have not yet been conducted and in view of the many younger ones now attracted to the profession not becoming discouraged, though still uncertain by the reported action, one can only hope that the editors and publishers will continue to use the rule of law as the way forward in resolving whatever hurdles they may suspect authorities of government attempting to do against the media, but of course not what is under the glaring eyes of all.
That said and not an orator but simply a professional journalist, let us not fool the public by saying that we are "independent" or "non-partisan" when we truly know that our practices are bordered on either cocktail, next-of-kin or general order. Conscientious journalism, as practiced by the IN PROFILE DAILY, DAILY OBSERVER, DEMOCRACT of Mr. Tom Kamara, The INQUIRER of Mr. Philip Wesseh, HERITAGE of Mr. Momo Kanneh, The NEWS of Mr. Wilson Tarpeh and few others.
There is no space for effectuating prior constraints in the democratic dispensation, since Liberians have already experienced the effects.