17 May 2013

Liberia: House Invites PUL, Warrick

The House of Representatives has invited the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) Othello Warrick over 'terror threat' against the Liberian Media.

The House's decision was based on two separate communications from Representatives Richmond Anderson and Munah Pelham-Youngblood of Montserrado County.

The two lawmakers asked their colleagues to summon the EPS Director to provide clarity for his threatening statement against the media.

In their communications to plenary, the two lawmakers said due to national security implication captured in the EPS boss' statement, it was important for him to provide clarity on the use of threat against the media which is considered partners to the country's development agenda.

Representatives Anderson and Youngblood said the EPS Director should be questioned to explain what prompted his statement which has the propensity to jeopardize the fragile peace.

The lawmakers told the House's Plenary that Mr. Warrick should be questioned to identify individuals in the media who [Warrick] considers "terrorists" in order to remove the dark cloud over the rest.

According to our reporter, the two Montserrado County lawmakers' communications were opened for discussion, with several representatives including Richard Tingban and Francis Paye condemning the EPS Director's statement.

According to them, Mr. Warrick's statement contradicts government's stance to uphold press freedom including the signing of the Table Mountain Declaration by the President.

Rep. Tingban and others expressed disappointment over the continue silence of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who is the recipient of the friend of this year's media award.

Our reporter said the debate on the issue became heated, with three lawmakers openly backing the EPS Director's terror threat while several others condemned his statement.

Representative Bill Twehway, Matthew Zarzar and Mariamu Fofana said the EPS Director has the right to speak, noting that his statement was part of constitutional rights which calls for free speech.

However, the three lawmakers failed to say which part of the Liberian Constitution gives the right to anyone to threaten the other as freedom of speech.

Following the debate, House Speaker Alex Tyler instructed the Chief Clerk to invite the leadership of the PUL and Mr. Warrick to a meeting at the Capital on next Monday at 11 am.

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