Ellen’s Twilight: A Time for Evenhandedness and Constitutional Tolerance

first_imgThe abrupt closure last Saturday of Benoni Urey’s radio station, situated at 10th Street, Sinkor, is a highly disturbing development indeed. A Ministry of Information press release issued Sunday by Deputy Minister Isaac Jackson said the closure action was executed by the Civil Law Court. But the press as well as bystanders and passersby observed a full contingent of officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), clad in full riot gear, standing outside the radio station, as though in full readiness for combat.One bystander remarked that the scene was a vivid reminder of the frequent attacks which the Samuel K. Doe and People’s Redemption government launched against the Daily Observer newspaper in the 1980s. What is most disturbing about this terribly unfortunate incident is that this is the third time the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government has moved to close down a media house. That is apart from the closure in November 2011 of Kings FM, Love FM (now LIB-24) and Power FM/TV. These closures were in connection with a riot at the party headquarters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), executed on the eve of the election run-off between the incumbent President Sirleaf’s Unity Party and the CDC. The GOL said that in taking that action against the three electronic media outlets, GOL attempted to preempt a Rwanda-style radio broadcast that incited people to riot and kill. The three closures we refer to in this editorial are directly related to actions by these media houses which GOL deemed were particularly critical of the presidency. The first was in 2014 when government summarily shut down The Chronicle newspaper owned and operated by Philipbert Browne. This newspaper had been launching a persistent campaign calling for an alleged “interim government” that it said was in the making to unseat the incumbent national leadership headed by President Sirleaf. The second, which occurred on July 4, 2016, was the closure of the Voice FM operated by Henry Costa, whose highly controversial talk show were very critical of the country’s current political administration. Costa then moved his talk show to Mr. Urey’s LIB-24 FM. Costa’s prime offense this time was a letter allegedly written by President Sirleaf to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler, proposing a certain change in the statues. Costa conjectured that the letter had something to do with the Global Witness allegations of several government officials who involved in changing some of the country’s laws and regulations to accommodate the mining interests of the UK-based Sable Mining. Costa, in his talk show last week, interpreted the President’s letter to the Speaker to mean that she was the one whom Global Witness called “Big Boy 1.”That, too, was, in Costa’s typical style, highly explosive; and that may have tipped the sudden action against Urey’s station, which Costa was now using to air his broadcasts.It is not clear how or whether Costa definitively linked the President to any wrong doing by her letter to Tyler. We do not see how the President’s letter to Tyler linked her to any impropriety. Be that as it may, we are deeply saddened by the government’s over reaction. There are two reasons: first, this has brought the whole Global Witness allegations into sharper public focus and has forced people to sit up and think and listen and speak out and do their own investigation in a matter that seemed to be dying down already.We are deeply saddened, secondly, because we cannot see how this closure of yet another media house can help the President’s image—and legacy. There have been numerous criticisms against her administration. However, the one thing that people have unequivocally credited her with is her tolerance of media criticism. Here is a Liberian President who has staunchly followed President Tolbert’s lead in rejecting the iron bar that President Tubman imposed on freedom of speech and of the press. As far as Tubman, Doe and Charles Taylor were concerned, these freedoms were nowhere in the Liberian Constitution. And yet they were—and are—and despite the draconian laws still on our books, President Sirleaf has effectively avoided using them against the media, and actually constantly advocated their repeal.That is why she became only the second African leader to sign the Table Mountain Declaration.We pray that the President will maintain the tolerance she has exercised since her tenure began in 2006 and deal evenhandedly with the media on the high moral ground of constitutional faithfulness and tolerance.At the same time, we urge all our media colleagues to be equally evenhanded and fair to all whom they cover.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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Chemical spill at GNIC facility forces temporary shutdown

first_imgA chemical spill at the Guyana National Industrial Corporation (GNIC) wharf on Lombard Street, Georgetown, Wednesday morning forced a temporary shutdown of the facility.The area within GNIC where the spill occurredIn updating the media on the issue, the GNIC said that the spilt substance is “Rheduce”, a chemical which is non-hazardous, non-toxic and harmless to human and marine life.Rheduce is used as a thinner and conditioner in the RHELIANT thermally-stable, flat-rheology drilling fluid system. It works to disperse solids in the mud without requiring dilution or changing the synthetic-to-water ratio.Meanwhile, GNIC explained that the container containing the substance was ruptured on Tuesday during the handling of cargo at the facility’s terminal. This resulted in the chemical leaking and accumulating in an area around the container; however, as a result of the delay in the clean-up and rainfall, the substance spread.Sighting the spread, the facility’s terminal was closed.Rain caused the chemical to seep onto the roadway at Lombard Street, Georgetown (CDC photo)“The chemical, which is non-hazardous, non-toxic and harmless to human and marine life, was stored in a designated area. It leaked but accumulated in a small area around the said container. The response action to mop up the substance was awaited. However, the rain came and caused a spread of the substance. There was a panic reaction by customs, resulting in the closure of the terminal,” GNIC noted in a statement.Risk assessmentsNevertheless, a team was deployed from the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies to conduct risk assessments and execute the appropriate response, which later led to the clean-up and decontamination of the area.Clean-up efforts at the GNIC Wharf (CDC photo)Meanwhile, Head of CDC, Kester Craig, said that from the assessment, which was conducted in and around the vicinity of GNIC, it was confirmed that a chemical spill occurred between late Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.last_img read more

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