E-Mansion PR Deficit Sparks Public Concerns -Citizens Hungry for EM News Chide Press Secretary

MONROVIA: The nucleus of Liberia’s governance architecture, the epic center of state activities, is to be found in one particular domain: the office of the nation’s Chief Executive. Citizens, as well as non-citizens at home and abroad, both pro-administration and anti-administration, do daily put on eager ears and eyes directed at one direction: the Executive Mansion in order to get to know where their nation is headed. That’s why most experts of government and politics are unanimous in the view that the communications and public relations apparatus of the President and at the Executive Mansion must be on top of the game, not only well-schooled but experienced, passionate and paragon of the virtues of journalism: openness, proactiveness, and humility. At this second epoch of Unity Party’s political governance, this doesn’t seem to be the case, as many pundits are asking why a party that professes to be scholarly and strategic in thinking has gone to sleep on the reported communications and public relations deficit plaguing the office of the President. The Analyst taps the views of individuals who find the situation, underpinned by the current presidential press secretary, concerning.

The Press Secretary office at the seat of the Liberian presidency has come under widespread criticism for doing very poorly in communicating the routines, the activities and the voice of President Joseph Nyuma Boakai.

A mix of citizens, from both the ruling establishment and the opposition, who spoke to The Analyst, believe the public relations and communications unit at the Executive Mansion, headed by Kula Fofana, is the worst in terms of performance since the last two decades of Liberia’s post-conflict governance.

“Check the Executive Mansion website,” says a deputy minister in the Boakai administration who does not want to be named in print. The last story posted on that revered platform which has a deep penetration in the Liberian literate community was on May 21, 2024, except there is another one done right now while we are having this interview.”

He continued: “Does it mean that since that one story on the president’s meeting with rice importers, he has not carried out any other presidential function? For more than seven days, Kula has never written a single press release again to post on the site. That’s how serious the situation is. Liberians at home and abroad, and our foreign friends, who rely on the Executive Mansion website to see and hear what the president he doing on the daily basis are acutely starved with presidential news as we can all see. This is unfortunate. Why have we settled down with such a presidential news famine under a Kula press secretary as if the Unity Party or Liberia is faced with shortage of professional media people.”

Another Unity Party cabinet member who was in the conversion with his colleague interviewed by The Analyst added: “But check the Facebook page of the Executive Mansion. The last post, as we speak, is about Kula herself having a press conference. That’s three or four days ago. In fact, should she put her personal press conference on the presidential page. That’s a desecration. That’s arrogance at the highest. She needs to be told to stop. Besides, much of all we see on the Emansion Facebook page is pictorials or just the naked PDF versions of the President’s statements or communications. Can’t Kula, for God’s sake, re-write those statements into press releases for posting them on the page? Does she have compositional deficit? Or is the entire press secretary office or media department at the Executive lack anyone to write releases?”

A staff working at the Executive Mansion press bureau who also begged not to be named for fear of reprisal said something that appears to answer that question: “I can’t speak for Kula, but what I can say is that there are people to write, perhaps far better for the job. The problem is pride. It is arrogance. Kula has a bullying attitude, selfish and pompous. And unfortunately, she is given undue attention; I can say undeserved reverence and clout. Because she has overshadowed everything, we just look about to see how far she would go with this kind of working relationship.”

One of the most immediate glaring faults being pointed to by her critics is the poor reporting by the press secretary office on the just ended Cabinet Retreat held by the Unity Party Government and attended by key partners of Liberia.

Whether it was during or after the Retreat, which was held three days ago, the office of the presidential press secretary could not write a line in the form of a release to explain or report to the public who said what. And there were too many good things said and done at the retreat.

Though the event, at some stage asked journalists out, particularly during the first day, most part of it was open to the public, and too many good things were said by the president, the vice president, members of the Cabinet and even international partners who attended.

Absolutely none of what was said was converted into a press statement or a release to be sent to media institutions through email or placed on the Facebook page or on the Executive Mansion website, such that if independent media people had not lifted some of things discussed, there would be no official news version of the retreat to the public.

Some pundits say even while the independent media is also obliged to report on presidential news, Liberians and international people look for a more authoritative platform such as media pages of the president that include Emansion website and the Facebook page. No one even knows if the president has other social media pages and if they are replete with news stories, not just pictures and live videos.

Five days gone, the public has since become curious about the outcome of the retreat, considering the herculean task of development, road constructions, electricity, bread and butter issues that the Unity Party Boakai-led government is faced with in the next six years.

Those familiar with president meetings have described the press secretary’s failure to routinely and timely update the public on such an important presidential meeting as hugely unfortunate, untypical and unbecoming of the office of the press secretary.

Moses J. Kemah, a student leader said in an interview with The Analyst: “The failure for the press secretary’s office to widely publicize the official media versions on the cabinet retreat is a huge ‘let-down’ of the president and the government that would have wanted to Liberian people to know the many promising policies and programs discussed by Government at the retreat. Hope this lady is not working for the opposition to downplay the good things of this regime and thereby undermine the developmental standing of the government.”

A former Executive Mansion communications staff added his feedback to the poor performance of the present presidential press secretary office.

He said: “During our days, we positioned ourselves in such a way that we reported every major policy statement and action by the president at meetings presided over the president. We would develop multiple releases every day and from different angles for posting on our official pages, including the Emansion and syndicate them to media outlets. What’s happening today is strange and unfortunate, and a disservice to the current president who is saying and doing many good things that are not reaching the public only because someone chosen as press secretary is poorly performing and not giving others chance to work.”

Executive Mansion Press Corps, a group of various independent media entities assigned at the Executive Mansion, is also complaining. One of its members provided a reflection on how things worked before between the group and its members on the one hand and the press secretary office on the other.

He reflected: “Previous communications people at the Mansion made our job much easier in many ways. We were treated dignifiedly, given courtesy even when we were inhibited by presidential guards or by the lack of materials. Past press secretaries and public affairs staff built a better relationship with us that made us almost feel like we were government PR staff. Their releases were well-written and they helped to fit us in where we were lacking, including providing photos and audios if ours were not good or when we didn’t have at all.

“The era under Kula is far different. She makes herself far detached from Emansion press corps as if she doesn’t know or does not care about her cardinal responsibility of portraying the good image of the presidency and the Government. Before this time, as Executive Mansion reporters, where we were absent from presidential functions, we used to run to the Executive Mansion website, which was an authoritative source of presidential news, to update our stories. We can’t do so today.”

Another EMansion reporter told The Analyst: “What is most annoying about the current press secretary is her bad communication attitude. She hardly picks up phone. She ignores almost everyone, as if she’s too good or too big an official of government to bother with frequent uninvited calls. How can you be doing communication work, a strategically well-placed official, and can’t communicate with people. In the past, we, independent reporters at the Mansion, were ones sometime weary picking up calls from the presidential press office, particularly when we did not want to go on some presidential functions. But now, it is the press office, mainly boss Kula, who is running away from calls, not just from us but also from our senior editors who assigned us at the Mansion. How can journalists get their stories balanced or simply get reports about the president if she is refusing to talk to journalists.”

A current staff of the press secretary’s office agrees: “That’s not only independent journalists she ignores. We who work with her are feeling the pinch of it. Our boss lady is to only call us, though she does rarely. And we must pick up her calls. But she is not supposed to pick up our calls. No. Our calls are not be picked up by her, as if ours were nauseating and irking.

“Everything – be it money for transportation, scratch cards, gasoline, news from the president, just everything – is good for Kula alone. She keeps her arms akimbo, strongly bent on both sides, to keep all other persons away from what is good for the pocket. We’re in hell here at the press office.”

Another presidential press secretary office staff added: “Kula is not acting like a press secretary. Even at functions, she is not seeing taking note or positioning media people at vintage points to cover the presidency better. She’s only seen like a protocol officer, something that is not her job. She must desist from that. She must do the job for which she is paid, not to be protocol officer. We have too many things to do. We get call every day why our sites – Emansion and Facebook pages – are empty, and friends asking if the president is working or we are keeping the news away from the public. There are media veterans here at the Mansion and within the UP circles. She should seek their counsel, drop her ego and nonchalance, and work with them since she does not have practical newsroom experience and therefore unfamiliar with the Liberian media ecosystem. Or simply, let her seek another placement in government and leave the press secretary office.”

1 Comment
  1. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS FORM OF COMPLAINT? When Last did Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. George M. Weah and others like them ever hold accountable a Press Secretary like The Analyst News Liberia has done? Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf and Mr. George Weah controlled and masterminded what their PRESS SECRETARY did or published. Is this form of complaint about integrity, credibility and competence or it is about something else? To move Liberia forward, Liberians honestly need to learn to work together, give potent and profound advice and encouragement. LEARN TO PUBLICLY COMPLAIN LESS and work together MORE.

    WORK with Secretary Fofana and put Liberia and our people FIRST and self-centeredness LAST.

    Liberia needs all of its citizens!

    Cllr. Frederick A.B. Jayweh, Esq.
    fjayweh.criss@outlook.com
    Mobile: 720-73-7994

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