Many people seem to be under the impression that a free press means that the media can say whatever it wants. That is not the meaning, though. Free press means that the media is able to report on all events and issues that affect the lives of the public without interference or limitation by the government. However, the basic tenets of good reporting still apply. What are those basic tenets? Accurate, verifiable information confirmed by multiple sources. It does not mean that the reporter can pull together unrelated quotes to make an article reflect his or her personal point of view.I recently held a press roundtable to sum up my time here in Liberia as Ambassador for the United States of America to Liberia. I pointed out progress I have seen as well as areas of concern that need the attention of all the people of Liberia. However, Front Page Africa misrepresented both the content and tone of what I said. Especially egregious among the many misrepresentations was a quote attributed to me that questioned the readiness of Liberia’s security forces to assume responsibility as UNMIL draws down. This is absolutely false, as a transcript from this session will bear out. While acknowledging the work that remains to be accomplished, I also noted progress and emphasized the responsibility that citizenry also plays in ensuring a law-abiding culture takes root and flourishes – in response to two different questions, one on mob violence and one on the UNMIL drawn down. I said:“As for mob violence, it continues to be a concern for us and others, and I think for Liberians themselves to see how quickly some of these incidents can spin out of control. Again, I go back to this need for personal and community responsibility, which each citizen has a role to play in ensuring the security and stability of the State. The government and the security forces have a certain role to play, but they cannot be in every single location. So, it’s really incumbent on communities and counties and districts to develop their own mechanisms to ensure that people don’t allow these kinds of events to spin out of control. When they happen and they end up in either injuries or death to individuals, or destruction of property, you’re only hurting yourselves – you’re not necessarily hurting the target of that anger.Then in response to a different question on the UNMIL draw down:“We have confidence that over time that the government and the people of Liberia are developing the mechanisms and the systems and the institutions to assume responsibility for their own security. And, that really is something that has to happen. It’s been a long time coming. UNMIL has now been here for 12 years, almost 13 years…That’s a long time for a peace keeping mission. Over the last several years, their actual role in terms of maintaining security in the country has really been diminishing. You see them around, but they’ve been drawing down gradually over the last couple of years. So, it’s an inevitable process. It’s something that has to happen. We work, the UN works, with the Liberian National Police. We, of course, have been working with the Armed Forces of Liberia. We work with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Other partners are working with BIN. They are gradually developing capacity to take on responsibility. We’ve seen some progress with the LNP. There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, particularly at the level of local police officers.” Good reporting is an essential part of democracy. It helps the people understand what is happening in their country and with their government. It enables people to become better citizens and respond to issues that affect their lives. However, the press is powerful, and bad reporting is contrary to the goal of a free press. Bad reporting is incendiary – leading to public discontent and reaction that is not in keeping with building a strong, stable country. Journalism is a powerful tool that needs to be used wisely. When used well, journalism improves the country and the lives of the people. When used poorly, journalism is a destructive weapon. I encourage all of the media outlets in Liberia to use their powerful tool of journalism wisely.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Also Wednesday, GM said that as part of the GMAC sale, it will pay $1 billion to GMAC by the end of the month to raise its equity to where it was on Nov. 30, when the deal closed. The payment is necessary because of deterioration in GMAC’s residential mortgage results due in large part to subprime loans, and earnings restatements by GMAC, GM said. David Healy, an analyst with Burnham Securities and a GM shareholder, said that despite the GMAC loan problems, GM is poised to have more profitable quarters in 2007. “I think the recovery is still intact,” he said, adding that GM will see a full year of its North American cost cuts, plus its new pickups and luxury sport utility vehicles are selling well. “Cost-cutting and a richer mix of launch vehicles through at least the first half of 2007 should help maintain this positive trend,” Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy said in a note to investors. Henderson said GM’s automotive operations performed better than expected for the quarter with increased revenue in North America due to higher transaction prices and higher sales volumes and revenues overseas. Worldwide, the company said it made $228 million selling cars and trucks for the quarter and $422 million for the calendar year. Its North American automotive operations lost $14 million for the quarter and $779 million for the year, but the annual figures were $5 billion better than the previous year, Henderson said. GM also cut structural costs by $6.8 billion last year due mainly to buyouts and early retirement offers accepted by more than 34,000 hourly workers. It expects to reap the results of $9 billion in cost cuts this year. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! DETROIT – In a region battered by the loss of thousands of automotive jobs and whose primary industry has been awash in red ink, news of a $950 million fourth-quarter net profit from General Motors Corp. should have been met with a parade. But the bad news of the past year or so has even GM reacting cautiously, with Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson a little reserved about saying the profit is a sign that its dark times are coming to an end. “I would say no one’s declaring victory, though, at this point at General Motors. Nobody,” Henderson said after its 2006 earnings were announced Wednesday. “The objective is to build a successful, profitable enterprise going forward.” Yet Henderson and some industry analysts say the profit is a foundation for the world’s largest automaker to recover from a $10.4 billion loss in 2005 and a $2 billion overall net loss for the full year in 2006. “An important step is where I’d put it, but just that, and we’re focused on ’07,” Henderson said. He wouldn’t predict whether GM, which is undergoing a massive overhaul that includes shedding thousands of jobs and closing plants to become more competitive with Asian automakers, would make money this year. But he did promise that the company would continue to improve its year-over-year performance. GM’s positive fourth-quarter results included $770 million in special items attributed mainly to the sale of a 51 percent stake in its financial arm, General Motors Acceptance Corp., to an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management. But GM said it would have made $180 million in the quarter without the GMAC proceeds and other items. Subprime loan problems had a negative impact on GM’s balance sheet, though, with the company taking a $284 million loss from GMAC to its bottom line in the fourth quarter. GM’s financial results were delayed by accounting troubles and last year’s sale of the GMAC stake. Overall, its fourth-quarter revenue declined to $51.2 billion from $51.7 billion in the last quarter of 2005, and GM attributed the drop to the exclusion of GMAC revenue starting Dec. 1.