Greetings On World Press Freedom Day

By Throble K. Suah

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

May 3, 2003

From the male ward of this Clinic in Accra, Ghana, I join you in the celebration of 3 May, this year, as world Press Freedom Day.

A free Press is indeed one of the most essential components of a democratic society, which in turn is a pre-requisite for sustainable social and economic development. This fact has manifested itself in the last twelve years since 3 May 1991, at which time editors and journalists from Africa gathered in the Namibian capital, Windhoek for a regional seminar on promoting independent and pluralistic media.

The Windhoek declaration became the first in a series of commitments, region by region, to uphold the freedom of people everywhere to voice their opinions and their access to a variety of independent sources of information. Notwithstanding, the aspirations of the architects of the declaration signed a decade ago have not materialize in the areas of Press Freedom and personal liberty especially in West Africa.

Therefore, I wish not hesitate to pay tribute to the Press Union of Liberia, Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas, Committee to Protect Journalists Reporters Sans Frontiers, African Health and Human Rights promoters and Media Foundation for West Africa. Others are Open Society Initiative for West Africa, Center for Democratic Empowerment, National Human Rights Center of Liberia, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, National Youth movement for Transparent Elections, University of Liberia Press Club, Millenium Promoters Incorporated, Prominent individuals both Liberians and non-Liberians for their unflinching support to Journalists and Rights activists in Liberia Africa and the rest of the World.

My gratitude is not only for the support and concern, but the prayers you continue to offer for my well being since my tortured on 14 December, 2002,by five Armed soldiers of the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), a Presidential elite force in Monrovia.

Fellow Countrymen, had it not been for your intervention and that of others, I would not have been counted amongst the living today - I would have joined other expired colleagues globally, if not like Charles Gbenyon and John Vambo who were killed in similar circumstances during the execution of their journalistic duties. May peace be to their ashes.

Brethren of the inky fraternity, Journalism is not breathing good old oxygen and menacingly threshing its hoofs about. I only mean she is alive but not kicking well. Remember, Mr. Charles Taylor warned PUL Practitioners against excesses. In January of this year, he indicted the Union of "behaving like a Political party" when the body was under obligation to rescued one of its members.

For me, President Taylor's statement optimized the dangerous dilemma the Union and its membership are faced with under his rule. In recollection of events, he (Taylor) told me through Cabinet Director, Blamo Nelson and ATU Deputy Commander General Joseph Weni, while I was on hospitalized at the St. Joseph Catholic Hospital in Monrovia that my torture should not be politicized because, as he put it, that formed part of the Unit (ATU) training program to get even with those viewed by Government as "troublemakers."

Celebrants, especially those at home, take it easy but stay alert because in Liberia we have no working rules. We are all witnesses to the carnage in Liberia and its attendant death tool, detention; torture; harassment and displacement of some of our professional colleagues. And I wish that none of you become like me - glue to the bed for almost five Months with sleepless nights associated with worrying about being paralyzed, which could erode my career.

Therefore, I want to urge all of you (Journalists) in the Liberia to adhere to the highest standards of the profession - refuse to lend your skills to hate-mongering, sycophancy and always uphold the principle of impartiality.

In conclusion, as you may be aware by now, my sight has been restored. Notwithstanding, I am yet to recover of the past of physically and mentally.

Well, as we move on may the compassion of our Lord spare us until we meet again.