By Bill W. Cooper
The United States Government has warned that people involved in the spreading of misinformation or disinformation run the risk of visa restriction.
The US Government’s statement was in response to an alleged video linking the head of the Election Coordinating Committee (ECC) Oscar Bloh of supporting the Unity Party (UP).
The US government also stated that, as announced by its Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, on September 27, 2023, the US may pursue visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Liberia, including through the purposeful spread of misinformation or disinformation.
The US caution comes days after the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Chairperson, Mulbah Morlu, and Secretary General Jefferson Koijee, displayed a video and alleged that the ECC Head and Senator-elect, Amara Konneh, along with other senior members, were seen strategizing plans for the upcoming Presidential run-off election.
Chairman Morlu and Koijee, during a late Wednesday evening, November 8, 2023 press conference at their party headquarters in Congo Town, also disclosed that the CDC has written to foreign missions and development partners, along with a copy of the video, to make the world aware that the head of the ECC has taken a side in the upcoming run-off election.
The two CDC party officials did not provide any evidence to support their claim that Bloh is affiliating with the Unity Party, but based their assertion on the video, which they bragged about being credible and real.
Contrary to the allegation, the ECC, a coalition of pro-democracy civil society organizations, responded through is statement by clarifying that the video was fake and that the person seen was not Bloh.
In buttressing to authenticate the truthfulness of the video, a fact-checking organization, Local Voices, supported by the U.S. Embassy through USAID, also confirmed that the individual in the video was not Bloh, contrary to the CDC officials’ claim.
But the U.S. Embassy, in a statement issued Friday, November 10, 2023, further emphasized that as a result of the incidents involving Bloh, they are actively exploring using the visa restriction, which is an example of impending election observation efforts needed to ensure transparency.
“As a result of this incident, we are actively exploring using this visa restriction authority because we view this as an example of impending election observation efforts needed to ensure transparency,” the statement added.
The U.S., at the same time, reiterated its commitment to supporting and advancing democracy, reaffirming that it may consider visa restrictions for those believed to be responsible for undermining democracy through the purposeful spread of misinformation in Liberia.
The statement also affirmed the U.S.’ support and confidence in the ECC’s ability to report fairly and accurately on the upcoming presidential runoff, reassuring the U.S.’ commitment to funding the ECC and promoting a free, fair, and peaceful electoral process across the country.
The U.S. is also urging all Liberians, irrespective of their political affiliation, to carefully verify their sources of information, encouraging them to exercise their voice and right to vote in the upcoming run-off election.
Meanwhile, the government, through the Joint Security, said it will begin monitoring Facebook users who will use social media platforms to incite violence in upcoming run-off election between incumbent President George Weah and former Vice president Joseph Boakai.
Justice Minister, Frank Musa Dean, at a press conference held Friday, November 10, 2023, by the Joint security in Monrovia, further warned against statements that could incite violence during the run-off.
Liberians are expected to cast their ballots in a run-off election between President Weah and former VP Boakai on Tuesday, November 14, 2023, to determine the winner of the October 10, 2023 Presidential election, in which 20 candidates participated but failed to obtain outright majority of the total votes cast (50 percent plus one vote).
This, Minister Dean stressed, “We ask people using social media to issue threats to desist with immediate effect. All unlawful acts will be met with discipline in equal proportion, and I am warning all political parties and individuals against announcing results of elections, as it is the sole responsibility of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to do so.”
Minister Dean also cautioned Liberians against early celebration before the announcement of final results by the NEC.
ECC Bloh Vindicated! -Joint Security Vows To Monitor Social Media
By Bill W. Cooper