In Taylor's Liberia, Double Standard Prevails
Posted July 18, 2002
Not long ago, the press secretary to President Charles Taylor and editor of the regime's propaganda website, Molley V. Paasewe, wrote a piece alleging that someone at the Analyst newspaper committed plagiarism. In his article, the chief propagandist called on the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to investigate the paper and discipline the wrongdoer(s).
At The Perspective we deeply cherish the intellectual requisite of crediting others whose works we cite in our writing. We believe that is not only appropriate and required, but also it lends credence to the proposition that in honesty is credibility. And we applaud Mr. Paasewe for demanding honesty and integrity as we tell the Liberian story to the rest of the world.
We are, however, troubled by the double standard that functionaries like Mr. Paasewe often use in articulating their version of our sad story. Frankly, we are keenly aware that as hired pens, people who are paid to defend the dictatorship through their writing skills, objectivity and veracity are not their first priority. Nevertheless, the public expects, indeed, it deserves, a modicum degree of fairness and consistency from all the parties that are obliged to inform and mold public opinion.
Undoubtedly there is this dichotomy between the pro-democracy and pro-Taylor groups about the future direction of Liberia. As the suffering of the Liberian lingers on for so long, and no genuine efforts are being made to ease it, the gap between the two camps has dramatically widened.
Take, for instance, The Perspective, which is well known for opposing Mr. Taylor because it believes he is a menace to democracy - a despot who has ruined Liberia and destabilized the West African sub-region. In its endeavor, the magazine with its online website has maintained a high degree of consistency as it exfoliates or peals off the veneer from the criminal syndicate in Monrovia.
As a crusader for democracy in Liberia, The Perspective has committed its resources on exposing Mr. Taylor and his supporters, who are a major hindrance to a democratic Liberia. We firmly believe, and most freedom-loving people agree with us, that Charles Taylor is the greatest danger to freedom and civil liberties in Liberia.
Likewise the Liberian ruler and his followers are resolved to stopping the seeds of genuine democracy from taking hold in our country. And they're prepared to use any means within their power to destroy the country.
Over the years, The Perspective and its partners have been cataloging the Taylor record of tyranny. His attacks against fundamental freedom, the press, human rights are atrocious. His misrule has been nothing but death and suffering, which has further pushed the masses into squalor.
In its crusade, The Perspective believes it's the duty of every Liberian to confront and excise the menacing tyrant, who has held Liberia hostage much too long by exposing his excesses to the world.
But as pro-democracy camp is determined to sow the seeds of democracy in Liberia and rid the despotic regime out of the country, there is equally a formidable group of Taylor partisans who blindly support the autocratic regime.
In this group are many cunning individuals some of whom play official character roles in the theatre of death and exploitation that have besieged the Liberian people for more than a decade now.
Beside the military-security network that Taylor uses to silence the ordinary citizens and intimidate civilian opposition politicians, he has also assembled a team of journalists and public relations personnel to engage in disinformation campaign.
In this public information control arena, there are two key character players. The minister of information is charged with the official duty to spread the government propaganda to the rest of the world. Playing this role to perfection is Reginald Goodridge, who has the brazen boldness to recite mendacities or lies with a straight face without remorse.
Beside that, he is the resident agent for suppressing the truth of what's actually taking place in the country. Mr. Goodridge is the point man in the assault against freedom of the press in Liberia. He decides what information to put out to the rest of the world by regulating the entry of foreign journalists into the country.
But he is not alone in infringing upon the rights of Liberians. Another restraint to the free flow of information in Liberia is Molley V. Paasewe, who serves as both press secretary to Taylor and editor of Allaboutliberia.com, an online propaganda website for the regime.
As editor of the publicly funded website, Molley V. Paasewe decides what articles are posted to the site. He also has the exclusive right, though he is a "seasoned journalist", to decide what other Liberians at home should read. With such an immense power, this un-elected bureaucrat can freeze out Internet websites he deems anti-regime. Apparently, he is protecting the Liberian people from the danger of knowledge, of knowing the truth about their dire circumstances.
Credible sources in Monrovia say that government cyber-monitors report to their findings to the minister of information through the editor of allaboutliberia.com. "Because of the ties between the provider and the Government, some potential patrons believed that their use of the Internet was monitored by government security personnel and choose not to use it."
In other words, people are afraid to use the cyber-café in Monrovia because the Taylor regime is watching to see what kind of news and information the public is reading. Moreover, many Liberians believe the Internet service providers in Monrovia are either wholly or partly owned by Mr. Taylor.
The irony is that Mr. Paasewe's actions are in conflict with some of his writings, which compromise his integrity and rightly expose his duplicity. His role places him in a position of conflicting demands, in which case, he must exercise his true conviction.
In his own words, Paasewe recently wrote, "In the execution of his sacred duty, the journalist will jealously guide and defend the truth, often, to the peril of his life. But even among the most honest writer(s), the temptation to "stretch the truth" (euphemism for lying) sometimes become(s) overriding. This happens when the writer wants his or her story to make a kind of earth-shattering impact. With some writers who inadvertently stretch the truth, the motive may really not be evil. But others deliberately do so (for) ulterior designs. Money. Fame. Position. Anything goes."
As chief literary hired hand for the maniacal Taylor regime, Mr. Paasewe has opted for the position, money and fame, and deliberately abandoned his "sacred duty" to "jealously guide and defend the truth."
Blinded by ulterior designs, he has called upon the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to investigate the independent Analyst newspaper for plagiarism. But at the same time, one of his staff writers is the discredited, fraudulent James B. Bleetan II. Like former Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke, James Bleetan fabricated a story in which he created a female character as the girlfriend of a U.S. Embassy official who was shot by Taylor's security forces in June 2001.
But, unlike the reputable Washington Post that returned the coveted Pulitzer Prize and asked Ms. Cooke’s resignation, editor Paasewe and Allaboutliberia have allowed James Bleetan to remain on the staff as a writer. But, then in the art of propagandizing, probity is irrelevant, and double standard prevails.