The MFWA has received with concern, the recent developments in Liberia which undermines press freedom and freedom of expression in that country.
On May 3, 2013, the head of Liberia’s presidential guard, the Executive Protection Service (EPS), Mr. Othello Daniel Warrick, while addressing a gathering of over 100 journalists at an event to mark the World Press Freedom Day, issued severe threats against the freedom of the media.
Mr. Warrick is quoted by news reports to have said:??Any press member that surpasses his/her responsibility to get involved in presidential intelligence; trust me, we will restrict you?.?He was further quoted to have said?“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… the EPS has the right to arrest you without warrant.”
Following the threats and in protest against what obviously constitutes a threat to press freedom, the Liberian Press Union (PUL) at a meeting of its members held on May 9, took a decision to boycott coverage of the Liberian presidency. According to PUL, their decision was also to protest against President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf?s silence on the threats by the head of her security.
The MFWA views this development as troubling as it portrays intolerance for press freedom and free expression. The situation is particularly worrying giving that President Sirleaf is the reigning co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and was in 2010 presented with the 'Friend of the Media? award by the African Editors Forum.
The situation is also a roll back of the democratic progress the country was making and the goodwill that the country has received for being the first West African Country to pass an access to information law.
The MFWA wishes to express its solidarity with the PUL and backs the Union?s call for President Sirleaf to make personal pronouncement of her government?s commitment to press freedom. We also urge the president to openly rebuke her head of security for his anti-press freedom posture.
The MFWA is a regional independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Accra. It was founded in 1997 to defend and promote the rights and freedom of the media and of expression.