Gongloe, Tarpeh Differ on Gov’t.–Media Friction

By: Lewis K. Glay

Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted August 29, 2006


Liberia’s Solicitor-General Tiawan Gongloe and Wilson Tarpeh over the weekend gave their dispositions on what appears to be a friction between the government and the media.

Cllr. Gongloe and Professor Tarpeh were guests at the 1st Anniversary of the Liberia Media Center (LMC) celebrated at the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Headquarters in Monrovia.

The both men gave their opinions on the recent utterances made by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf against some unnamed media institutions for practicing what she termed as unprofessional journalism to defame the character of certain people in society.

Cllr. Gongloe told the audience at the ceremony that individuals have the right to express disagreement with the press in the face of the public when they feel that the press is not doing the right thing. He said the press has not done justice to the national cause especially in the case of businessman George Haddah whom he observed has been given front page coverage by the media regarding the saga between him and government over taxation as well as the importation of rice into the country.

But, the Solicitor General realized that perhaps the way news makers including the legislators were discussing the Haddah’s issue is what giving it massive publicity.

What Cllr. Gongloe also termed as “demeaning” was in his view, for the Legislature to have allowed businessman Haddah and Commerce Minister Olubanke King-Akerele to appear before the House for inquiry, adding, “I was ashamed and I think they did a disservice to those who elected them.”

On the issue of Executive Mansion’s threat to select certain media for briefing if some institutions continue to “misquote” information emanating from there as recently claimed by the Press Secretary, the Solicitor-General holds the opinion that for him, he usually buys four newspapers (unnamed) and sometimes one other paper. However, the interpretation of Cllr.Gongloe’s assertion remains anybody’s guess as far as the Executive Mansion-media relation is concerned.

However, he assured the press that nothing would be done by this government to intimidate or shut down any institution in the country so long the right things are done in line with the rule of law.

For his part, Professor Tarpeh only concurred with Cllr. Gongloe on the issue of government officials being cited to appear along with an entrepreneur before state authorities, something both individuals said cannot be allowed anywhere the world over.

But, commenting on President Sirleaf’s utterances at the UMU graduation convocation which she claimed that some media practitioners where involved in blackmailing and “checkbook” journalism, the former Finance Minister said the statements were unfair to the media especially when the President did not name those she alleged to be involved in the act.

Professor Tarpeh argued that in every profession there are those who go against ethics but said that does not warrant blanket accusation. He said the press is not a public relations arm of government, noting, “If the government wants public relations she must pay for it.”

The former Finance Minister said the government and the media must cooperate to work as partners in progress. He observed that both past and present governments never made cogent efforts aimed at supporting the media.

Professor Tarpeh who spoke on the topic: “The Role of the Media in Democratic Reforms,” said the media has the responsibility to carry the reforms to the people, as such; it is part of the process and needs the support and promotion to make those changes embedded in the reforms attainable.

© 2006: This article is copyrighted by the Forum newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved. Forum can reached at: Forum@theperspective.org