PUL to Stage Protest over Constant Brutality against Journalists

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PUL, President Charles Coffey

By Hannah N. Geterminah and Willam Q. Harmon

The plenary of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has resolved to stage a peaceful protest over the constant manhandling of journalists by state security forces, especially the Liberia National Police (LNP) and members of the elite presidential guard, the Executive Protection Service (EPS). The protest is expected to take place on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Monrovia.

The plenary, the highest decision-making body of the PUL, unanimously reached the decision on March 9, 2020, at a mass meeting presided over by the Union’s president, Charles B. Coffey, at its headquarters in Monrovia to protest against the government.

PUL president Coffey said that all journalists will gather this Thursday to present a petition to President Weah as a way of drawing his attention to the series of attacks perpetrated against journalists by state security officers.

Mr. Coffey said copies of the petition will also be presented to relevant institutions, including the Legislature, Executive Mansion, United States Embassy, European Union, United Nations, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Embassy of the United Kingdom, to inform them about the attacks against Liberian journalists.

The mass meeting that was attended by over a hundred members including government public relations officers (PROs) unanimously agreed on a four-count resolution to address the increasing wave of attacks against journalists in Liberia.

Individual reporters at the mass meeting were allowed to give their views and a way forward to end the constant attacks against professional journalists during the discharge of their duties. Four suggestions were highlighted out of the many views and opinions expressed by the media practitioners.

The union’s resolutions include: a peaceful assembly, that was unanimously agreed upon to call the attention of government and the international community to the unabated wave of attacks against Journalists in Liberia; prepare a legal team and investigators for immediate investigation and legal actions against perpetrators of brutality against journalists and a security-media dialogue to end brutalization of journalists and media workers.

The Union members also mandated the leadership to allow the EPS to continue its ongoing investigation on the brutality meted against the media.

The members of the Union further raised an alarm over the continued brutality, incarceration and intimidation of Journalists.

PUL is, therefore, calling on all Journalists to assemble at its headquarters on Thursday, March 12, 2020 beginning at 8 am in their White T-Shirts and Blue Jeans for the peaceful assembly.

In reaction to the decision of the PUL’s plenary, the president of the Reporters Association of Liberia, Madam Cecelia Clarke, said that the association collectively embraces the planned action.

“We at the RAL fully support the decision reached by the membership of the PUL to peacefully petition the government because that is the only language they seem to understand,” she said.

Reporters Association President, Cecelia Gilklay Clarke

She disclosed that all the victims of the security officers’ brutalities are all members of the RAL and as such the group is mobilizing its members to ensure that they show up in their numbers on the day of the protest.

“I want to call on all reporters across Liberia to gather in their numbers to send a message to the world that Liberia is not a safe place for journalists,” the RAL president said.

Madam Clarke disclosed that the RAL has catalogued about eight incidences of violence against members of the media—seven of which were perpetrated by LNP officers and the other one by EPS agents.

The PUL has received over seven cases of state security attacks against journalists between January and March 2020.

Meanwhile, the last time the PUL took any such strong decision against the Liberian government was in 2013 when it placed a block-out on the presidency of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

That decision was precipitated by Madam Sirleaf’s chief of Security Othello Daniel Warrick when he branded journalists as “terrorists” and threatened to face-off with them in the performance of his duties as a chief presidential guard.

In a related development, the Executive Protection Service (EPS) has admitted to overacting against journalist Kolako Salim following a recent protest on the grounds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In a communication addressed to the Press Union of Liberia Monday, the EPS said its agent overreacted against the journalist during the protest and deeply regrets the situation. The EPS said it has taken stock of the situation and will apply the appropriate disciplinary measures against the officer who allegedly mar-handle the journalist.

8 COMMENTS

  1. What will protest do? nothing.

    ask every newspaper or airwaves to carry this, sue the Liberian Govt to international body let them pay or sign for the lives of Journalist. to protect them, sue them to Ecowas high court, United nations high Court, do not use Liberian court it will go no where. this can be done after gathering proof for a single case and include all other related cases. inform all press unions around the world to inform their outlets to help broadcast Liberia cases and hi-light them on news, find way for international press to question Weah and His people for this act ( just as you do when they are moving or on a visit to places or other countries, the cases can be broadcast and when the press there have time to meet weah, they should ask him why his guys keep killing and beating Liberian press people and when will it stop. let them broadcast the result on their news outlet for few days when he’s stay in that country there), let this not be Liberia thing. draw the world press attention, go out, do something to prevent the death of another press person.

    the press don’t carry gun, neither do they go to fight or try to kill the president or high office people. they listen, collect information and speak for the rights of the voiceless.
    if you keep silence and just protest, this will continue and more deaths will follow. or you waiting for another press brother or sister to be killed.
    this need to stop. you will not hear a press or advocate is killed run after to be kill in sierra Leone or Guinee only Liberia. Why?

    You guys are doing your best to help expose facts so help can come.

    well I wish you blessing and pray this act will stop by God’s help.

    Am just tire of hearing a single Liberian is kill for speaking out or secretly by the govt that should be protecting us, and say they are sorry. whether you vote for the govt or not or are a part of their party, they are under the law to protect every Liberian no matter their view. not to beat or kill us becuz of out view. or support other groups or unit of their govt to kill us.

  2. Freedom of speech and of the Press are two basic fundamental constitutional rights that must be vigorously protected at all times. Government must condemn in its strongest terms, all intimidation, harassment and brutality against members of the press, and bring to justice perpetrators of such crimes. Such negative news of lack of press freedom does not serve well in the best interest of Liberia. The press remains a vibrant force for good in any democracy, especially Liberia, having emerged from years of civil strife, as it strives to uphold democratic values and good governance. While urging the government to fully protect freedom of the press, I also admonish journalists in Liberia not to practice yellow journalism but to speak the truth and report a balance story. A story is not balance when it is only one sided. Strive for balance reporting. In spite of the foregoing, the government must at all times protect the freedom of the press. Where it disagrees with a particular story or article, it has the right to issue rebuttal(s), and the press must report those rebuttals for fair and balanced reporting.

  3. James Wolobah

    However, here is the sad scenario. Government cannot condemn these evils “…in its strongest” because the president is sanctioning violence. If the president meant business about enforcing the law and deterring violence in all of its forms, he could. But from his more than two years in office now, he has proven to the Liberian people he cannot

    The violence that is waged against journalists in Liberia is the harbinger of events to come. It is typical of tyrannical regimes. President Weah cannot lead the country under normal circumstances where the rule of law prevails and government officials are held accountable for financial mistrust and lack of transparency.

    In situations such as these, a semblance of peace and stability usually occurs, and the unsuspecting public islunged under the impression all is well. But after a while, a big bang occurs; all hell breaks loose, and the coun ptry is back into chaos.

  4. Journalists are important people in the society. Going beyond the line to angrily terminate a person life due to disagreement most especially a professional person should be strongly discouraged.

    This is not the era where journalists or other professional group should be witch hunt because of their critical views. We are now in the dispensation of living on information. Journalists at time sacrifice their life to go for critical information. Whether a particular report is in your favor or not, lesser action should be prescribed in responding to their reportage; because regardless to their profession in giving a credible and balance stories, they are not out of human errors. Without the sacrificial works of journalists to uncovered many ills in society most especially in the government, we could have be in limbo and blindfolded on the happenings around us.

    This should not be only journalists to attend the plan scheduled to submit their petition to the government, we as citizens knowing the cardinal role journalists play in our lives, we should join them in this endeavor as to catch government speedy attention in responding to their plea.

    Due to some inconvenient reason to take someone live, most a family person, shouldn’t be condoned in this contemporary society. This cruel brutality against journalists should unconditionally stop.

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