22 February 2019

Liberia: Speaker 'Revokes' Accreditation of Reporters Assigned At the Legislature

Photo: FrontPageAfrica
Legislative Reporters Association of Liberia's Secretary-General,Titus Dessie, flanked by colleagues, reads a press statement condemning House Speaker Chambers’ alleged decision to revoke some of their colleagues’ accreditations from the House of Representatives.

Monrovia — The Legislative Reporters Association of Liberia (LEGISPOL) has expressed shock and dismay over what it termed as the 'unlawful' decision of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers to revoke the accreditations of its president, Musa Kenneh and some of its members.

But the Director of Press and Public Affairs Bureau at the House of Representatives, Isaac Redd denied that Speaker Chambers has no part in it and the measure is the bureau's new policy to "infuse new reporters and remove those who are redundant and have been repetitive.

In a communication to the management of their respective entities, the Director of Press and Public Affairs Bureau at the House of Representatives, Isaac Redd noted that he was revoked the accreditations Musa Kenneh, the Press Union of Liberia 2018 Legislative Reporter of the year and his colleagues because they have been 'redundant and repetitive in their coverage.

Mr. Redd called on their respective institutions to send in their replacements as the decision signal a "best practice that is intended to enhance aggressive media service of your reportage to the public."

However, in a press statement issued on Thursday, February 21 at the Capitol, LEGISPOL called on Speaker Chambers through the House Bureau of Press to reconsider his decision and re-accept the accreditations of Reporter Musa Kenneh and the others; warning that 'appropriate actions' will be taken if the Speaker fails.

The group noted that the Press Bureau or Speaker Chambers has no authority to revoke any reporters' accreditation and see their action as hypocritical and a threat to free speech in the wake of the the passage of the Abdullah Kamara Act of Press freedom by the Legislature and awaiting the signature of the President.

"Let the office of the Speaker be informed that reporters' accreditations are not done by his office; under the doctrine of devolution of power as provided for by the Constitution of Liberia under article 3, and simple public administration, provide for separation of work and coordination in work environments. LEGISPOL condemns Speaker Chambers' action on the revocation of reporters' accreditations and see it as threat to the doctrine of free speech as provided for by article 15, 17 of the constitution," the association denounced.

Meanwhile, the PUL award winning journalist, Kenneh has alleged that the decision to revoke his accreditation stems from his critical reportage of the workings of the Lower House.

He named his coverage of the House's leadership alleged budget manipulation and the violation of the constitution over the impeachment proceedings of Justice Kabinah Ja'neh by the 54th Legislature.

Dozens of Journalists Blocked from Covering Session

Meanwhile, FrontPage Africa legislative reporter say out of the 27 accredited journalists covering the lower House, only nine were allowed access to the chambers on Thursday, February 21 by the Deputy Sergeant at-arm and Legislative assistants.

According to the them, because of limited space in the chamber of the newly Chinese-constructed annex, they have been strictly mandated by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers to only allow journalists who will arrive early to occupy the few seats available in the chambers.

Our reporter noted that following the resumption of the 54th Legislature in January of this year, the House of Representatives has been conducting session in the cramped conference room of the annex of the capitol building.

In 2018, they abandoned their chambers because of its deplorable condition: leaking roof and rustic lightbulb sockets and were holding sessions in the joint chambers of the capitol.

It can be recalled that while debating the impeachment of Justice Kabinah Ja'neh during one of their sessions in 2018, one of the giant-sized lightbulbs hanging directly over the seat of Montserrado County's District #2 Representative, retired Colonel Jimmy Smith felt after he had just left his seat to chat with a colleague.

Director Redd has assured reporters that his office will work with Speaker Chambers to ensure that all 27 accredited journalists gain access to the chambers of the House of Representative to cover open session.

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