On 2nd Thought: Solway, Arcelor Mittal Mining War and media propaganda
During December last year, a former Liberian government official approached this newspaper claiming to have an article about Solway and his Russian mafias written by a qualified Liberian cyber expert.
The main focus of the article was on how the Russian Solway mafias are engaged in cybercrime and that this Liberian expert trained in cybercrime “quote” has written a nice feature article about their activities here.
This former civil servant (name omitted) currently heads Arcelor Mittal Liberia’s public relations campaign. Its main objective is to sell Arcelor Mittal Liberia to the Liberian people, win the company’s sympathy and pressure lawmakers to rectify Mittal Steel’s controversial Third Mineral Development Agreement (MDA).
For this campaign, several local media were mobilized. They should not write any negative stories or articles about Arcelor Mittal Liberia and nothing positive about rival mining companies like Solway and HPX with investment interests in Liberia should be reported by them.
Thus, the article was sent at the eleventh hour and being a feature article from a “trusted source”, we have decided to publish it without further verification of the authenticity of the author and the information. -our bad. At that time, this newspaper had no idea who Solway was.
Said article was then published on the New Dawn website the following morning. But upon a second review of the article and the forwarded email, it was observed that the article was from a member of the Council of Patriots (CoP) political group, a political group that led the first and the most popular post-war demonstration here demanding the Weah. government to resign.
This caught the newspaper’s attention and after several inquiries it was later decided to withdraw it and that it was not worth publishing in the first place.
Later that evening, the newspaper received a call from an individual claiming to be a cyber expert who had noticed the removal of the article from the New Dawn website and wanted to be sure the website was in good health. . The newspaper informed him that the article had been deleted because the content of the information did not come from a credible source, and that it was rather a simple propaganda article in which the newspaper did not didn’t want to get involved.
However, the Cyber Expert “quote” insisted that these Russian mafias linked to Solway were present and that two other media outlets that had reported the same article reported that their sites had been hacked and that only the article in question had been deleted – really. Follow-up calls with the outlets involved told this newspaper that for the same reason given by New Dawn, they had personally removed the item.
A few days later, a fellow professional wrote about Mittal Steel’s third MDA and made the case for Solway and the rest of the competitors. Apparently it didn’t go down well with someone who seems sympathetic to Mittal Steel. The first individual email sent to this newspaper was a direct instruction to remove the article. When the newspaper insisted he would not after nearly 10 email exchanges, the individual alleged that the only reason the newspaper refused to remove the article was that he had been bribed to publish it. -Seriously?
This newspaper refused to accept that the monthly monetary payments would be limited to the sole promotion of Arcelor Mittal and not dwell on its failures by the company’s external public relations company. Under such an arrangement, he is prohibited from writing positive stories about his competitors – Solway, HPX and others.
This is the kind of arrangement that was made with several local media outlets and a social media talk show host. These media and talk show hosts on social networks continued to vomit the debate in favor of Arcelor Mittal, while denigrating the other competitors.
The recent publication in which President George Weah was quoted as asking “the Liberian boy and the Indian man” to negotiate tends to project Solway as a Russian-owned mining company or a company linked to a Russian oligarch. These types of propaganda have only deprived the Liberian people of the benefits that come with the investments that are in question here.
If the sole purpose is to create public sentiment and pressure lawmakers to pass an MDA that would trap the country for decades and prevent other competitors from entering Liberia due to the money handed out to the end of each month for some media for public relations purposes, it is necessary to rethink the country.
This newspaper has refused to accept such a monthly payment because it believes that Arcelor Mittal’s third MDA has issues that need to be addressed, which otherwise could trap the country for decades, while Mittal and its shareholders have paraded in front of their banks with a smile.
Arcelor Mittal’s initial MDA with the Liberian government was not put under a critical microscope like the third because the country then needed investment to provide much-needed jobs for some stability as it was just emerging from ‘a conflict. Times have changed and the need to encourage other investors in the sector is necessary for the economic growth of the country.-To be continued