Liberia: Presidential Team Must Get Press Probe Underway Now!

opinion

The Editor,

First of all, I should take this moment to expend thanks to President George Weah for preferring me on the special committee to investigate the recent upsurge in violence against journalists by security personnel in Liberia. I consider my appointment as an honor and a duty in the cause of journalists, to which I am grateful.

However, I am hard pressed to make this clarification that since the committee was announced on 18 March 2020, we have not met at all, let alone to take a decision on suspending the investigation. Actually, if we ever met, Deputy Press Secretary, Smith Toby would not be our spokesperson.

The Chairman of the Committee, Dr. Larry Bropheh, will admit that I reached out to him by phone on 30 March, when there was dead silence following the announcement of the committee, to find out what was going on. He explained to me that he hadn't gotten in touch because there were internal discussions in government in the wake of the Coronavirus to make some adjustment in the tenure of the committee before calling members.

I accepted his explanation in good faith, but was amazed, to have heard Chairman Bropleh being quoted in the news by Deputy Press Secretary, Smith Toby on Tuesday, 31 March as saying the Committee had suspended the investigation to resume on April 15 because of safety concerns over the coronavirus.

Isn't it weird that the committee would be resuming a process that hasn't started in the first place? I really shouldn't be doing this, but I am pushed to do so in the interest of the credibility of the committee that I am supposed to be a part of.

I graciously accepted the challenge to help government look into some of the unresolved attacks on the press with the hope of collectively breaking the perennial impunity for crimes against journalists in Liberia. I needed to sound out the initial missteps.

Without dismissing the safety concerns raised by the Chairman, I believe the size of the committee is not large to warrant a suspension of the probe. I therefore suggest that the committee meets at once to determine the risks factors and if possible, draw up methodology for the hearings.

Arguably, these same journalists have even been risking their lives every time they showed up at the Ministries of Information or Health to provide coverage for the government's update on the situation of the virus in Liberia. I believe the risks they are taking in these trying times to keep the population informed is much higher than any risk the committee members will take to give them some redress for the pains they suffered at the hands of their attackers. No need for further delays; let's get the investigation underway, please.

For me, service to journalists and journalism is a life-long commitment so I would do anything, any day, in the cause of our trade and the greater good of the society.

My sincere respect!

Peter Quaqua

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