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
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houses to cover the presidency are being withdrawn.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.
information, please contact IFJ on + 221 33 867 95 86/87
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 134 countries