Africa-Press – Liberia. Some rural journalists in Nimba County have accused the Unity Party Nimba County chapter of “character assassination.”
The journalists, 14 in total, claimed in a statement that members of the UP county leadership had been on social media and other platforms accused them of receiving a backdoor payment of US$25,000 from the ruling Coalition of Democracy Change as “a token of their support.”
“The UP Nimba Youth Wing Secretary, Printis Domah, and spokesperson, Bob Kartoe, and others accused us of receiving the sum of US$25,000 as a bribe from CDC to push their agenda,” the journalists revealed in the statement.
“They stated in their false allegations that they received from CDC Secretary-General, Jefferson T. Koijee, during his recent visit to Ganta the amount of US$10,000 upfront.”
The journalists noted that the action of the former ruling party’s local officials was a targeted campaign to “slander and libel them—all to discredit them.”
“This is also an assault on press freedom and the roles journalists play in our society,” they said in the opening passage.
According to the press release, on September 7, a team of UP partisans, Bob Yeanuah Kartoe appeared on Radio Nimba under the program ‘Rescue Hour,’ where they accused the 14 journalists.
The journalists further noted that, after using Radio Nimba, the UP partisans continued their slandered campaigns on social media.
“This act of slander and libel against us has resulted in severe consequences for us,” said the release.
“Such action does not only undermine the profession of journalism, but it also poses a serious threat to the safety and well-being of our professional members,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia has underscored that during a critical election period such as the upcoming October 10 polls, “journalists must be allowed to work freely without perceived threats from political figures.” Nimba County should not be an exception to this call, the Union said.
“Furthermore, the PUL calls upon both the CDC and the Unity Party to ensure that all journalists across Liberia are free to work and cover their rallies without fear or favor. It is important to remember that these journalists are also Liberians, and they play a vital role in the democratic process.
“The Press Union of Liberia remains dedicated to safeguarding the rights and safety of journalists throughout the country. We appeal for a swift resolution of this matter to guarantee the protection of our dedicated members in Nimba County,” the statement concluded.
Inequitable Distribution of Airtime
The 14 journalists have also expressed disappointment in the management and Advisory Board of Radio Nimba for failing to sell airtime to all political parties to ensure that one or a few have a monopoly over the station.
They accused Radio Nimba of giving preference to the Unity Party for the sole purpose of hosting their three hours ‘Rescue Hour’ that goes on three times a week and is not moderated by any journalist.
Radio Nimba is owned by businessman Floyd Tomah, who is also a godfather of Senator Jeremiah Koung. It is, however, not clear as to whether it was Tomah who allotted the time for the UP to disseminate its campaign messages on his station.
However, the 14 journalists described the action by Radio Nimba as a lot more to the UP than the other political parties as unfair and infringing the rights of the political movement.
Recently, Nimba County Inspector Mark Gblinwon accused Radio Nimba, Voice of Karn, and Radio Larweh in Tappita of sidelining other political parties, especially the CDC for airtime and giving preference to the Unity Party.
Radio Larweh in Tappita is owned by Rep. Dorwoan Twain Gleekia of the Movement of Democracy and Reconstruction of Senator Johnson.
The 14 journalists include Joseph Solo of Radio Nimba, Zawolo Selleh, Radio Nimba, Christopher Fahn, Nimba TV (social media platform), Prince Gboezuah, Voice of Gompa, Kannah Ziambo, Liberia News Agency, Joseph Kehkular, Truth FM, Martor Togbah, Radio Sletorwah (Benoni Urey), and Nyan Flomo Jr. Radio Kehgheamah.
Others include Daniel Garteh, Voice of Nimba; Roger Than and Kortee Nagbe, Radio Sehwai; David Tahn, Nimba TV (social media); Emmanuel Freeman, Hott FM; and Joseph Wongbay of ELBC.
It is not clear whether these were bribed or given money as DSA for covering CDC activities in Sanniquellie, where some prominent Nimbaians, including former superintendent Fong Zuagele, defected to CDC from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP).
However, one of the journalists who attended alleged that Koijee gave those who covered the event a handsome package as coverage fees. However, most, if not all, of the journalists accused by the UP local stalwarts were at that event.
This is not the first time for journalists to be given huge sums of money for coverage. During the 2020 special senatorial election, Rep. Jeremiah Koung dished out huge sums of money to journalists who covered his activities.
During the same period, former Minister of State, Nathaniel McGill, allegedly gave reporters in Ganta some unspecified amount of US dollars, with some reporters putting the amount over US$1,000.
Meanwhile, when contacted, UP local spokesperson Kartoe has confirmed accusing the journalists of receiving bribes from the ruling CDC.
He said before the launch of Weah 2023, these journalists were contracted to receive US$120 each for every week to push the Weah-Taylor agenda.
He also confirmed the use of more airtime on the three radio stations mentioned earlier but said they were paying for the airtime, which cost about US$2 per minute.
“In 2017, we had a similar program on nearly every local station in Nimba, called the ‘UP Hour,’” he said.
In 2017, there was no argument about journalists being bribed, something many believed about the financial status of most of the political parties, including the UP.
Meanwhile, the accused journalists are calling the Nimba Community Radio, PUL, ALICOR, ECOWAS, US Embassy to take immediate action in addressing this flagrant violation of journalist rights in Nimba.