Keynote Address by Dr. Daniel E. Cassell, Political Leader and Vision Bearer of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) at the Annual Convention of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA). Trenton, New Jersey. September 25, 2021.
The President and officials of ALJA;
Dignitaries and other Invited Guests Gracing This Occasion;
Partners and Members of ALJA;
The Fourth Estate (Press);
Fellow Liberians Here In The U.S. and Those at Home following via live stream;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
My name is Dr. Daniel E. Cassell, Vision Bearer/Political Leader of the People’s Liberation Party (PLP) (Liberia), Founder and CEO of Dr. Cassell’s Humanitarian Foundation (Liberia), Founder and CEO of Kwenyan Professional Health Services, LLC (USA) and Kwenyan and Associates (USA).
First and foremost, I magnify the God of the Hallowed Heavens, to whom all glory belongs, for the magnificent gift of life and for affording us yet another opportunity to gather as compatriots (Liberians) to honor and celebrate ALJA and its members. In honoring this occasion the opportunity avails itself for us to do a sober reflection on the significantly critical role the Liberian media must play in ensuring that our dear homeland Liberia is repositioned on a much-desired trajectory of Good Governance, Rule of law, Civil liberties, civility, peace, and tranquility.
With profound gratitude, I would like to thank the National Administration of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) for the extraordinary privilege of selecting me as your conventional Speaker, a task I don’t rank any less and pledge to perform with humility and honor.
Distinguished colleagues of ALJA, your 2021 National Convention is being executed under the theme: The Quest for an Independent, Sustainable, and Ethical Media in Liberia. What a theme so meticulously, perfectly, critically, and timely chosen. As Liberians yearn for good governance, fiscal probity, rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, effective and efficient political representation at the level of the Legislature, socio-economic empowerment of the masses, political stability of our statehood, press freedom, and other basic human rights, Democratic values, free, fair and credible elections, peace and stability, the role of the Liberian media is not only essential as we often hear but incredibly INDISPENSABLE. By this characterization, I am essentially and consciously submitting that without an independent, sustainable, and ethical media, Liberia is doomed. Our collective dream for good governance and a better country in which all of us can find hope and possibility would wallop in illusion.
My dear friends of the press and fellow Liberians, your profession is a noble, enviable, and sacred one. Journalism is a pride and honorable profession that emphasizes ethics and righteous prudence at the height of its practice. To further illustrate the relevance and power of the media British Parliamentarian Edmund Burke and political theorist coined the phrase “The Fourth Estate” (or fourth power) elevating and honoring the media as a powerful segment of society that wields an indirect but significant influence on society even though it is not a formally recognized part of the state political structure, yet the media is the “fourth estate” because it serves as a watchdog over the three others: executive, legislative and judiciary. Novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer Lytton pontificated the famous quote; “The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword”. All of these perfectly illustrate the immense power of the media, however, notwithstanding, such honor comes with much responsibility.
Journalists must at all times report the truth and expose the vices and excesses in society. While no story is worth the life of a journalist, a journalist must defy all odds to gather and report the facts plain and square. Journalists must be patriotic, uncompromising, and daring in their reportorial duties with the singular goal of protecting the interest of the state and its people. Editorials, Op-Eds, commentaries, special features, and lead stories must focus on governance and society and talk about the danger of corruption, bad governance, lawlessness, poor quality education, bad healthcare system, the utter disobedience to the separation of constitutional powers, impoverishment of the people, the rising insecurity obtaining in the state, impunity, the ineffectual nature of the legislature, the corruption in the judiciary amongst other abnormalities obtaining in Liberia. Journalists must write and speak about these issues with conviction, passion, and vehemence for if these conflict- trigger incongruities are not dealt with adequately they can potentially lay the basis for conflict and war. Lest we forget, these were the very vices and egregious tendencies that plunged Liberia into a fifteen-year senseless bloodbath that crudely claimed the precious lives of hundreds of thousands of compatriots. These vices are once again marauding our nation and the Liberian people are witnessing another epoch of debauchery under the rulership of President George Weah.
Fellow Liberians and members of the fourth estate, Liberia is currently enduring what I term as “Vexing Paralysis”. Every segment of the Liberian society has painfully nosedived to nothingness. Governance is quite dismal, to say the least. Health care is bad. Education is substandard, arguably the least in the sub-region. Roads are horrible. Electricity is inadequate and unreliable. Water is almost non-existent. No job creation. No foreign direct investments. Public transport is on the verge of collapse due to corruption and gross incompetence. The private sector is in the hands of Lebanese and Indians. Liberians are not in charge contrary to what Mr. Weah pledged to the Liberian people, that “they will not be spectators in their economy”. The economy is virtually weak as the balance of payment is very low. Transparency institutions are submerged into a functional coma because the Weah regime has no interest in accounting for state resources.
Fellow Liberians, these anomalous conditions besetting the country must claim the attention of the Liberian media and cause journalists to ask hard questions to those who are at the helm. Why is wrong with the country? Why are Liberians starving? Why the cost of living is so ridiculously high? Why lawmakers are allotting US$30K plus more to themselves amid a decimating Covid#19 Health Crisis instead of directing funding to the health sector? Why cost to clear a 20-foot container at the free port of Monrovia is outrageously astronomical? Why is the state-run University of Liberia lying in filth and professors underpaid? Why are teachers, nurses, police, and others serving our country underpaid? Why are road and building contracts being awarded to Lebanese in disregard for the PPCC laws and regulations? What became of the US$30 million stimulus package? At this juncture in our national existence, I would like to respectfully admonish The Liberian media to summon the courage to move from “official sources” reporting to crusading and advocacy journalism with emphasis placed on the governance of the country and the well-being of the squalor-stricken Liberian masses.
Ethical journalism begins with truth-telling. I am aware of the risk involved with ethical and critical journalism in Liberia and other African countries but if this is the profession one is called to perform, God will protect him/her and endow him/her with the wisdom to carry on insofar it is done with passion and genuineness. By the same token, I like to remind journalists that before becoming journalists, you were first citizens of Liberia and shall remain citizens of Liberia suffice to say each of you has a patriotic duty to protect your country, stand against its mismanagement and abuse by nefarious leaders, for you are direct victims of bad governance. Today, we see unethical and compromised journalism on the rise because many claiming to be journalists in Liberia nowadays prefer GOLD over GOOD. Integrity is fast diminishing in the Liberian media. Truth-telling is being compromised for petty cash and material gifts. We are told some Journalists are proudly dining and winning with corrupt officials of the current government and sadly defaulting on their sacred duties to expose the ills permeating the homeland. Instead of being watchdogs, we are told that some Liberian media editors are taking monthly payments from public officials, ministries, and state enterprises to gate-keep and promote them. The question then lingers; who will protect the country from its disreputable officials if journalists are being paid by those looting and plundering their country? However, we are also aware that in the face of these temptations some journalists continue to stand tall and keep the touch of integrity flaming in their line of duties. I salute their courage to remain loyal to the sanctity of their noble journalism profession amid the devastating economic realities suffocating the homeland.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen; The People Liberation Party (PLP) is of the ardent belief that Liberia can never be a wholesome functioning and civilized country without an independent, sustainable, and ethical media. Liberia cannot fight and minimize corruption and impunity, reduce poverty, ensure adherence to the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and good governance without a progressive, pragmatic, productive, and impartial media. This is why the PLP is solely committed to working with the Liberian media to build its capacity in terms of logistics, training, and in other critical areas primarily to strengthen and empower the Liberian media for the good of our nation. PLP under my visionary stewardship remains open to working with ALJA and PUL to identify possible opportunities to build the capacity of the Liberian media and may I say, please consider us a ‘willing partner comes asking’. We are no doubt cognizant of the harsh economic hardship in Liberia and the media is not spared, but realistically, the media cannot make money or improve in a country badly governed. The media cannot flourish when the economy is contracted and businesses are unable to give ads to the media. The media cannot pay its workers fairly and regularly when there are no foreign companies to give huge ads. Journalists cannot make fair earnings if the media institutions they work for are broke and poor. If Liberia is governed well the economy will grow and bloom and the media will make money and journalists can become rich like lawyers, doctors, and engineers. Journalism is not a peasant profession as we see around the world. Media owners and journalists are millionaires right here in America and other parts of the world. That is why we cannot emphasize the urgent need for the media to use its power and influence to help Liberia get on the proper footing in terms of sound political and economic governance. This is why the PLP is seeking a viable partnership with the Liberian media primarily to ensure that the media is independent, sustained, and uncompromisingly unethical in playing the sacred role to which it is entrusted.
Ladies and gentlemen; I am pleased to let you know that back home, we have forged a cordial working relationship with the PUL and several media houses. We do so not for a favor or to seek fame. We do so in acknowledgment of the critical role the media must play to right the wrongs in Liberia—and to ensure good governance in Liberia. We consider it a righteous obligation to engage the media on the pressing need to remain the fearless watchdog of the Liberian nation-state so that democracy works, rule of law is adhered to, corruption and impunity rattled, transparency and accountability are institutionalized, democracy and civil liberties protected, holding the rulers of the country to account for their stewardship become a national tradition and regiment, ensure power and state services are decentralized and devolved on to the people, to protect minorities and promote diversity and religious tolerance. We also challenge the media to put us under the spotlight in our quest for national leadership.
In conclusion, I must submit that the People Liberation Party (PLP) vision and agenda to a.) Improve the socio-economic conditions of its citizenry through the good health care system, standardized educational system, job creation, economic empowerment, and other effective retirements, b.) Take meaningful steps to curb official corruption and institute accountability, transparency in the system of government, effectively and efficiently harness national resources, and avoid waste and plunder, c.) Improve and prioritize civil liberties and ensures security for all our compatriots irrespective of the political alignments, d.) Ensure adherence to the rule of law and ensure that the justice system works for all—haves and have-not. And discourage the perennial menace of impunity, f.) Improve on good governance and build public trust and confidence. Emphasize and ensure meritocracy and competence in the governing system, g.) Promote peace, unity, inclusion, and oneness amongst its citizenry. Protect minorities, promote diversity and religious tolerance, and h.) Prioritize youth and women. Provide educational opportunities to include vocational training for young people, empower and protect girls and women in every respect, we seek a solid partnership with an independent, sustainable, pluralistic, and ethical media to help us ensure socioeconomic dignity for ALL our PEOPLE, not FEW of our people, and together we along with you the media can accentuate our country to nobler heights and put some sense of pride and dignity on our dear people.
I Congratulate ALJA on the successful holding of its convention and wish you the best of luck ahead.
God bless our host country the United States of America, God bless the people of Liberia and the nation, and I thank you all.