Liberian security boss bullies reporters
Liberian journalists received renewed threats from the head of security for president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Press Freedom Day, May 3rd.
Daniel Othello Warrick, Director of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) - earlier known as the Special Security Service of former president Charles G. Taylor - told journalists that press freedoms are limited, as far as he is concerned.
As for any journalist who incriminates the integrity of Liberians, Warrick himself, or the presidency, "The EPS will go after them," the security boss declared.
Director General Warrick (pictured) went on to say, "We will go after any journalist. Liberia is for everyone and must maintain law and order."
The startling statements came during the official celebration of Press Freedom Day on May 3rd.
Being a confidant of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Warrick criticized the regimes of former presidents Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor for oppression against the journalists in the past decades. Mr. Warrick also holds an American citizenship according to African Standard News, and he had earlier been accused of replacing eight EPS officers with fellow Americans.
The Director General contradicted himself after praising the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration as the only government that has supported adequate press freedom.
His follow-up comments that "press freedom is limited" and that they will "go after" journalists that will report otherwise left the audience bewildered.
The statement from Director General Othello Warrick stirred noise in the hall as journalists jeered him and walked out of the room, which brought the program to a standstill for minutes.
Director Warrick labeled some journalists as “terrorists” without any supporting facts. He pointed out that "as the journalists have the pen, [terrorists] have the gun."
Liberia's celebration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd brought together journalists from across the country. Journalists and others celebrated the fundamental principles of press freedom and freedom to defend the media from attacks on their independence and pay tribute to journalists who lost their lives during the exercise of their duties.
Security personnel had been also invited to join panels discussing the importance of the press as part of the official observance of press holiday.
But contrary to expectations of the journalists in the audience, the speech from the Director General was full of threats. In small groups after his speech, journalists privately wondered what the aftermath would be when the United Nations Mission in Liberia finally leaves the country while open threats are coming from the country's senior security personnel.
On the grounds of the celebration, Director Warrick was escorted by his personal entourage of dozens of armed security guards, which amazed journalists. The sight was disturbing since Liberian security services have in the past few months flogged journalists and seized their cameras during coverage of events.