RECENTLY, AS LIBERIAN journalists and friends of the media converged in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to commemorate World Press Freedom Day under the theme, “Media-Security Relations: An Imperative for Consolidating Peace in Liberia, the Director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS), President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s Chief of Security; Othello Warrick threatened that the EPS will go after the media if journalists question the integrity of Liberians including himself.
MR. WARRICK DID not only stop there but branded journalists as terrorists followed by threats that journalists should be careful in questioning the integrity of Liberians including the President and himself. “Be careful because you have your pen and we have our guns, and if you incriminate the character or integrity of Liberians like me, we will come after you.”
WHILE BROODING OVER Director Warrick’s reckless statement against the media with great fear among Liberian journalists, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; an acclaimed and influential world leader who in the past used the media to consistently and persistently criticize previous governments said in clear tone that the media must continue the black out as long as they want disregarding threats against journalists by her security chief.
WE ARE DISAPPOINTED and disheartened over the President’s statement and we are with the strongest conviction that in an emerging democracy like ours that experienced nearly 14 years of civil unrest for a leader of such nation to support threats against journalists in the name of protecting her security chief.
WE THINK IT is very worrisome and disappointing for Madam Sirleaf who received the “Friend of the Media” award to turn blind eyes on the ongoing situation and even going to the extent of telling the media to continue its blackout.
SUCH STATEMENT FROM the President is not just an affront to the Liberian media but all media institutions the world over and the young democracy which we all obtained through our blood and sweat. Let the President remember that Liberia is not only for her and Mr. Warrick, her security chief but all Liberians especially those who have and continue to be in the vanguard of democracy.
NOW THAT THE President has made her intention clear that she supports Director Warrick’s statement against the media, we call on all our colleagues to remain steadfast and resolute and form a united front to continue with the forward march for press freedom and freedom of speech. Let us all agree that press freedom and freedom of expression will forever remain unbending and unswerving no matter whose threats.
LET US ALL stand tall and tell President Sirleaf and Director Warrick that the organic law of Liberia which our forebears struggled with blood and tears, sorrow and empathy as well as loyalty and patriotism shall never be swept under the carpet because of Warrick’s threats, intimidation and his boss’ response to the ongoing saga.
AS WE CONCLUDE, we call on all journalists and media practitioners in the country to remain strong amidst the reminiscence of vandalism and agony against journalists and media outlets bearing in mind that the pen is mightier than the sword and that the pen will always prevail against the gun including Warrick’s gun.