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Liberian ruling party officials' verbal attacks on media on the rise

George Weah, President of Liberia (C) and Vice President Elect Jowel Howard Taylor (R) attend a press conference at the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Party's headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, 30 December 2017
George Weah, President of Liberia (C) and Vice President Elect Jowel Howard Taylor (R) attend a press conference at the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Party's headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, 30 December 2017

Chongyoon Nah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This is an edited version of a statement that was originally published on cemespliberia.org on 26 December 2018.

A key executive of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, Representative Acarious Gray has accused Frank Sainworla Jr, the managing editor of Public Trust Media of being "anti-Weah".

Speaking on Fabric FM radio's live phone-in talk show on Christmas Day, Representative Gray said: "I am disappointed in Frank Sainworla this morning.... Frank Sainworla that I know very well is anti-President George Weah."

Journalist Sainworla, a former secretary general of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) during former President Charles Taylor rule, was one of three guests on Fabric FM's popular breakfast programme - New Dawn. Other guests included the Minister of Information, Lenn Eugene Nagbe and Rodney Sieh, the Managing Editor of one of Liberia's leading dailies, FrontpageAfrica. The guests were discussing the status of press freedom in Liberia and government-media relations.

Both Representative Gray and Minister Nagbe attacked Sainworla for indicating that while no Liberian journalist has so far been jailed by the CDC government and there was generally press freedom in the country, there were threats against critical journalists from top officials.

Mr. Sainworla said due to lack of coordination, coherence and inconsistency in public pronouncements from numerous spokesmen in the CDC-led government, the trust of the Liberian public in the Weah government was fast diminishing.

He cited a number of instances where truth telling has come into question in less than a year after the CDC government came to power.

Among other things, Journalist Sainworla cited the Gibraltar community reroofing of hundreds of home of community residents initially said to be personally financed by President Weah but which later turned out to be funded by public finances in the tune of over US$1 million; the conflicting accounts given by government officials about the missing billions saga; President Weah and his officials' failure to declare their assets in line with the Code of Conduct Act.

In addition to that, Journalist Sainworla said the CDC government has been lagging in demonstrating transparency and accountability since it came to power on January 22, 2018.

Malcolm Joseph, the executive director of the Center for Media Studies Studies and Peacebuilding, has defined the labelling of journalist Sainworla as anti-President Weah by an influential government official as dangerous for the journalist.

Mr. Joseph added that such a statement from a powerful lawmaker such as Representative Gray, has the propensity to provoke action against Sainworla.

On the same radio show, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe attacked the PUL, describing it as a "useless" group but was pressured into retracting his claims by the end of the radio programme.

The Liberian Information Minister appeared visibly upset with the PUL for not condemning the FrontpageAfrica newspaper story about government ministers allegedly raising a US$182,000 voucher to pay questionable debts incurred during former President Taylor's rule.

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