22 April 2019

Liberia: Weah 'Shocks' Liberian Media

President Dr. George Manneh Weah Saturday, April 20, 2019, shocked the Liberian media particularly the Female Journalists Association (FeJAL) when he presented a newly constructed and furnished building to the association.

The building was rumored on social media to be a radio station for the president.

But surprisingly, the president turned over the building to members of FeJAL at an elaborate ceremony.

Members of FeJAL and guests gathered at the site to raise fund for the construction of the association's headquarters, but it turned out to be a dedication ceremony when the President unveiled the newly constructed building.

It was shocking to many female journalists and guests as the program began with formal speeches and fundraising from government officials.

The President presented US$1 as his donation and instructed FEJALs president Siatta Scott-Johnson and the head of the construction project Estelle Liberty Kemoh to open several boxes.

In the boxes included 2.5 lot deeds, key to a ten seated bus, and a photograph of the already built headquarters.

A film was shown as from the date the discussion between President Weah for the construction in 2016 when the President was Montserrado Senator. The video captured start of the project to its end.

"I'm giving you press freedom but you must be professional and we all can save the state from violence," the President said.

FEJAL president added that the dedication will not compromise the reportage of female journalists.

Johnson said headquarters was a dream come through for the association and called on female journalists to remain professional and ethical.

"I am out of words, our dreams have been achieved, we've been crafting how we could start but with this dedication all we can say is that we are grateful," she said.

"I want to say to the Liberian people that the dedication and turning over will in no way compromise our code of ethics and our reportage will remain the same, we appreciate the efforts, some wonder why the media, but again we remain professional."

She said it is essential that FeJAL be strengthened as an institution to create a space of female journalists.

Ms. Johnson stressed that FeJAL will ensure that female voices are heard, adding "We envisioned a media landscape. Promote social justice, and equal opportunity."

For her part, Mrs. Kemoh, head for the construction committee said, although the construction was not a surprise to her, she is grateful.

She recalled that the discussion was held in 2016 when the land was given but then, the president didn't promise to build the headquarters till few months ago, when the construction was completed.

Mrs. Kemoh urged FeJAL leadership to continue building the capacity of female reporters as women stories will be highlighted.

Both House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie admonished the media to be ethical, promising to support FeJAL and press freedom.

Pro Temp Chie told the gathering that "we support the press but they should practice ethical journalism because we wouldn't sit here and make you spoil someone reputation, though we passed the press freedom act there are other route we can use."

FeJAL, an auxiliary of the Press Union of Liberia, was founded 1998 to protect the rights of female journalists, promote press freedom, and strive to bring women in the media.

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