OVER THE WEEKEND while celebrating World Press Freedom Day in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County, the Director of the Executive Protection Security, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Chief, Othello Warrick threatened that the EPS will go after the media if journalists question the integrity of Liberians.
DIRECTOR WARRICK THREATENED hundreds of journalists who assembled in Buchanan to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day to be careful in questioning the integrity of Liberians adding, ‘Because you have your pen, but if you incriminate the character and integrity of Liberians like myself; trust me, we will come after you.’
“IF YOU MISTREAT or infringe on the rights of someone, your rights will be infringed upon. Governance is everybody’s responsibility and any press member who surpasses his responsibility to get involved in testing our intelligence; trust me, the EPS will restrict you,” he apparently vented out his frustration at the celebration in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County.
HE SAID THE level of freedom being enjoyed by the media and Liberians in general has limitation. Warrick asserted that freedom does not go beyond the emblem of Liberia because one has the right to presidential freedom but if he or she comes to the affairs of the EPS that requires information of the President’s movement, they will consider that as an infringement to the safety of the President and anyone doing that will be arrested by the Executive Protection Service.
HE STATED FURTHER in his threat, ‘You are not more Liberian than the others. The EPS is to protect the Presidency, the Vice President and the first family and as indicated in the law, to protect dignitaries as directed by the President and that we will not harass; arrest and or ensure that journalists go missing but do not allow individuals to mislead you to question the integrity of those that have earned those integrities over the years.
‘WE ARE NOT saying you cannot preach freedom and transparency; the level of crucifixion must be sanctioned by yourself because as you go out and question the integrity of Liberians you should remember that you yourself will not go free. Not all of ‘us’ who are pen pushers; few of us that want to be terrorists, to turn the hands of people to be giving stories to publish things about others be reminded that the protection of the presidency remains the sole responsibility of the EPS.’
WE ARE SHOCKED and taken aback by such comments coming from the President’s Chief of Security whose officers are in possession of arms who on many occasions interact with journalists most of whom are assigned at the Executive Mansion to cover activities of the President.
WHAT IS MOST shocking to us is that at the time when the world was observing Press Freedom Day in every country intended to stop every form of harassment and intimidation against the media, the head of the President’s security threat to journalists is indeed scaring and has the propensity to depict Liberia as a police state or anti-democratic country especially when Liberia is still being considered a fragile state in the sub-region.
LET DIRECTOR WARRICK know that journalists have a mission and that is to serve as conduit of the society and serve as watchdogs using facts as their tools in exposing things that are counterproductive to the operation of government officials including the very President he claims to be protecting with he himself, and others in the society.
THE JOURNALIST DOES not have a gun as you rightly said but remember Dir. Warrick that The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword therefore, without fear, the media will continue to play its role as watchdogs of the society regardless of your threat and intimidation. As we denounce this undemocratic and unpatriotic statement from the EPS boss, we call on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to rethink and revisit her decision on the appointment of Othello Warrick because we believe his comments are not in the interest of President Sirleaf and her government.
WE ALSO CALL on the government to condemn Director Warrick’s statement because this has the propensity to cause the media to retaliate by putting news block out on the Executive Mansion as we are concerned about the safety and well-being of our journalists assigned at the Executive Mansion who on a day-to-day basis interact with Warrick’s men.
WHILE WE DENOUNCE Warrick’s comments, we also call on President Sirleaf to ensure that the EPS boss clarifies his statement because he is the Chief of Security of the President and if such comment emanates from him we believe that government should be seriously concerned and seek clarification.
REMEMBER, MR. DIRECTOR that journalists are not terrorists but professional people who have certain responsibilities to perform.