IFJ Condemns Public Threats Against Journalists in Liberia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

today has supported journalists in Liberia who have issued a media blackout, by

printing black front pages after a government official was accused of

threatening them. Radio and TV stations are also protesting against the

government by suspending broadcasts for two hours daily beginning today Friday,

10 May, 2013.

 

According to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), an

IFJ affiliate, Mr. Othello Warrick the Director

of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) in Liberia on 3 May, during the World

Press Freedom Day celebration, made disparaging and threatening remarks against

journalists, describing media personnel as terrorists and threatened to move on

them, if they question the integrity of the president of Liberia Mrs. Helen

Johnson Sirleaf. “Be careful in questioning the integrity of Liberians. Be

careful, because you have your pen and we have our guns. And if you incriminate

the character or integrity of Liberians, like myself, we will come after you,”

Warrick is reported to have said.

 

“We strongly condemn this kind of attitude and untamed

utterance. This is an open and serious threat against the media and journalists

and we are particularly shocked because they come from senior security personnel.

We will hold the Executive Protection Service responsible for any form of

assault or attacks against journalists which has a direct relation to the

statement made by Warrick.  We support

our colleagues in Liberia and stand in solidarity with them”, said Gabriel

Baglo IFJ Africa Director.

 

The IFJ, like its affiliate the PUL, is outraged and

alarmed by these wild comments. They have further brought to question the

government’s commitment to upholding press freedom, democracy and the rule of

law. PUL sees these comments as risky and troubling. “We fear that the lack of

response to such a condescending and threatening statement by a senior security

functionary points to approval by the president and threatens freedom of

expression, highlighting impunity against the media”, said Peter Quaqua PUL’s

President.   

 

As journalists feel unsafe in the presence of

presidential guards who threaten their lives, correspondents assigned by media

houses to cover the presidency are being withdrawn. In addition to this a news

blackout imposed on the Liberian presidency until there can express an

established guarantees for the freedom and safety of journalists across the

country and an end to media impunity.

 

The IFJ supports PUL which has taken the measures

in response to these unwarranted threats and calls on the government of

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to dispel and disassociate itself with these

threats in the interest of democracy, good governance and the rule of law.  Such threats have no place in an established

democracy.  “We therefore re-echo our

call on government to dialogue with the media in order to create the enabling

environment for the media to flourish.” Baglo added.

 

For more

information, please contact IFJ on + 221 33 867 95 86/87

The IFJ represents more than

600.000 journalists in 134 countries