At TRC, Veteran Journalists Discuss Role Before, After War in Liberia

(This article was also published on FrontPageAfrica


The thematic hearings of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) featured Liberian journalists from

both Liberia and the USA, who spoke on their roles played before and during the conflict in Liberia.


At the hearings yesterday were five journalists which included Mr. Kenneth Y. Best, publisher, Daily Observer newspaper; Stanton Peabody, editorial consultant, Daily Observer; Mr. Gabriel Williams, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Information, Cultural and Tourism (MICAT); Fanny Cole Weefur, former news anchor, Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) and Mr. Robert Lomia, former managing editor, The Eye newspaper.


The Journalist talked about freedom of press before and after the various conflicts in Liberia. Comparing press freedom during the 1940’s-1978, Mr. Peabody talked of how there was no press freedom because journalists were jailed whenever they published something deemed negative by the government.


Mr. Best spoke on difficulties experienced by the Liberian Media encountered during the regimes of Tubman, Tolbert and Doe and how he was thrown into prison seven times for publishing articles that were not favorable to the government.


Publisher Best who started practicing journalism in 1964 said the first time he went to jail was in 1981 when his paper published three letters from students criticizing the military government for banning Liberia National Students Union (LINSU) President Commany Best Wisseh. Mr. Wisseh had, according to sources close to LINSU in the 1980s criticized the excesses of the People’s Redemption Council (PRC) government and asked the PRC to say when it would return the government to civilian rule.


On mercenary journalism, he said it exists in Liberia. He said some newspaper publishers themselves are engaged in the practice because they serve as public relations officer for business people. However, he did not state the impact of such practice on the Liberian conflict.


Speaking further on the current situation in the country, Mr. Best said the members of the National Legislature are selfish; only concerned about themselves. “The problem with those in power, they don’t give money back to the masses. This is what got poverty rate high. They should begin to think positively by giving the money back to the people in building schools, etc.”


For her part, Mrs. Weefur said during her stay at LBS, the level of press freedom today is better than during the regime of President Samuel K. Doe. She called on the current to provide scholarships to educate the masses.


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