House Concerned About Media Blackout

By Alva M. Wolokolie

The plenary of the House of Representatives has voted for its leadership headed by Bomi County lawmaker Speaker J. Alex Tyler to meet the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on the on-going saga between the media and the Executive Protective Service (EPS) boss Othello Warrick.

The House took the decision following two separate communications from Montserrado District # 12 Representative, Prof. Richmond S. Anderson and District #9 Representative Munah E. Pelham-Youngblood informing that August Body about threats against  journalists by Othello Warrick, the Director of the EPS.

The EPS has openly threatened to use its guns and go after journalists who would criticize the uprightness of the President and a Liberian like himself. He also referred to journalists as terrorists on the occasion marking World Press Freedom Day in the port city of Buchannan about two weeks ago.

Rep. Pelham-Youngblood and Rep. Anderson told their colleagues yesterday during regular session that in keeping with Article 34 B and C of the 1986 Constitution which empowered the Legislature to provide for the security of the Republic and to authorize the Executive to conclude peace, it was prudent that they bring to the attention of the Speaker and members of the House to the most recent statement that was made by EPS Warrick.

“Mr. Speaker and fellow colleagues, as elders of the land, if we sit down and let this pass by without our prompt intervention, if anything goes wrong in the future relative to the pronouncement made by the EPS boss, we will all be held liable for not taking the necessary actions in keeping with our oversight duties,” Rep. Youngblood said.

“Honourable Speaker and colleagues, this situation has escalated to the extent that the Press Union of Liberia has issued a media blackout on the Presidency. This acrimonious relationship that has developed between the media and the Presidency is not healthy for our emerging democracy. Given the serious nature of this issue, I therefore crave the indulgence of Plenary to intervene in finding an amicable solution,” Rep. Anderson said.

After the reading of the communication, Grand Bassa County lawmaker Baron Brown made a motion that the two letters should be received and opened for discussion. His motion was seconded and the letters were opened.

While the debate was on the floor, the two authors of the communication explained in detail why they want Plenary to intervene in the matter. They overwhelmingly received support from most of their colleagues including Rep. Francis Payne of Rivercess, Gabriel Nyekan of Montserrado, Bofel Chambers of Maryland, Acarous Gray of Montserrado among others.

Other lawmakers, Mariamu Fofana of Lofa County, Matthew Zarzar of Snioe County, and Bill Twehway of Montserrado spoke against the communication and vowed that the EPS boss should not appear before Plenary but before the leadership of the House.

At the end of the debate, Lofa County Representative Eugene Fallah Kparkar made a motion that the House leadership should handle the matter instead of Plenary inviting the EPS boss to appear before that body. The motion was accepted and voted upon that the Chief Clerk should write the PUL leadership and the EPS at a meeting slated for Monday, May 20, 2013 at about 11:00 a.m.