Liberian media has lifted the block-out on activities surrounding President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her chief bodyguard Othello Warrick.
The decision was taken by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) following a unanimous decision to end the 18 days media block-out.
In a statement, which contained a caveat, the union said “No manner of threats by Warrick and his EPS will cause us to waver in our resolve to uphold the public interest and remain the voice of the voiceless.”
For 18 days, the Liberian media has had a block-out imposed on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and lately the government mouthpiece, the Ministry of Information, for defending terroristic statement made against the Liberian media by Othello Warrick, head of the Executive Protective Service (EPS).
Mr. Warrick is on record to have issued terror threat against Liberian journalists at an occasion marking World Press Freedom day on May 3, 2013 in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The day was declared by the United Nations to remind member states about the need for a free, independent and pluralistic media. But it was also observed to pay tribute to journalists and media workers who were killed in the performance of their trade.
Warrick described media practitioners as terrorists and threatened to move on them, if they question the integrity of President Sirleaf.
“Be Careful in questioning the integrity of Liberians. Be careful because you have your pen and we have our guns. If you incriminate the character or integrity of Liberia, like myself, we will come after you,” Warrick declared at the occasion.
However, following Warrick’s threat, the government refused to condemn his reckless description of media practitioners and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf remained silent for days.
In the statement issued yesterday, the Union said “the biggest contradiction yet in all this confusion was the silence of our President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf—the leader who is celebrated as the “Friend of the Media.” It is the position of the PUL that President Sirleaf should not remain silent for one day if her security chief walks into a program marking world press freedom day and threatens journalists – hence our boycott action.”
Continuing the Union added “For ten days, the President did not make any public statement to condemn nor disassociate herself from the threats. But when she finally broke silence, she made an equally offensive remark that affirms her EPS Director’s threats. What a contradiction!
The PUL observed that President’s media team refused to speak to the substantive issue and degenerated into personality attacks.
The union commended individuals and groups at home and abroad who stood with the media to check the conduct of public officials, and to demand guarantees for free expression and democracy in Liberia.
The PUL also commended all champions in the democratic movement who condemned “this naked abuse of power.”