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“Government Calls on PUL to Recant – Blackout”

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A Response

The Ministry of Information, Culture & Tourism (MICAT), on behalf of the Government of Liberia, called upon the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to recant its press blackout against the activities of the nation’s presidency (FPA, May 15, 2013).

Indeed, while we applaud the intent of our Government’s Call – expressed in fancy language as well as in intellectual and philosophical terms  – “on the Press Union of Liberia to recant” its blackout on news coverage of presidential activities, we want to remind MICAT that the Call on PUL is, simply, WORDS, NOT ACTION. For, it is “action” that commands and convinces sincerity of and commitment to and of “intent”, NOT empty WORDS and sloganeering designed, apparently, for Public Relations or propaganda advantage.

The President’s conspicuous silence, as the nation’s chief executive officer, in the face of such deadly threats (which may be a criminal act and, therefore, violation of law) expressed by her appointed chief bodyguard is, indeed, deeply troubling, because the Honorable Warwick is obligated to protect the person of the nation’s president, while defending and preserving freedom of speech and the press in our country.

However, in this effort, the President’s responsibility is to give instructions, orders, NOT to carry out or implement, in person, these instructions based on approved, public policies which, in turn, are based on philosophical, policy analysis, arguments and conclusive proposals. That responsibility, to implement approved, policy decisions in practical terms, rests, solely, on the shoulders of executive-branch ministries and agencies of government, such as the Executive Protection Service (EPS) headed by the Honorable, Mr. Othello Warwick.

In another development, The Honorable, Mr. Isaac Jackson, the Deputy Minister of Information for Press & Public Affairs, argues “. . . that the blackout is constitutionally deficient as it (because it) violates Article 15(c) of the Liberian Constitution which clearly states that ‘. . . there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries’”.

The problem here is that Mr. Jackson’s quotation is out of context and it seeks, apparently, to deceive or confuse the average reader as to whom the full article is directed. Let’s take a look at the preceding articles (a) & (b) in the effort to put the issue in perspective.

First, Article (a) provides that “Every person shall the right to freedom of expression . . . This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government. . .”

Second, Article (b) provides that “The right (this right) encompasses (or includes) the right to hold opinions without interference (by the government) and the right to knowledge . . . freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information . . .”

Third, and finally Article (c) summarizes and provides that “In pursuance  of this right (or these rights of freedom of expression, hold opinions, knowledge, freedom of speech, the press, academic freedom to receive and impart knowledge and information), there shall be no limitation (by the government) on the public right to be informed about the government (activities) and its functionaries”

Now, it is important to note that law is made not in isolation; that is, that lawmakers draw upon recorded history of failures and successes. Throughout human history, ruling groups, political power or governments sought to restrain, restrict, restrained and restricted opposition groups and the press from publishing information deemed detrimental. As a matter of fact, opposition elements and journalists had been and are being arrested, detained, tortured, tried and convicted, imprisoned and, often murdered, with publishing houses destroyed for publishing information about activities of government.

Therefore, these articles of our constitution are directed at the government. In fact, it would be unreasonable, illogical to compel a journalist, under penalty of law, to cover or write and publish true, independent stories about an individual or government that threatens his life with guns. It was and is with this history and prevailing conditions in view that our constitution was crafted and enshrined as guarantee against government interference.

Incidentally, this brings us to the nagging question of the Honorable, Mr. Othello Warwick, the person. Given the wide-spread, national/international debate, outcries and condemnations of this incident arising from Mr. Warwick’s his speech, it becomes a critical necessity to know the background and position of Mr. Othello Warwick, in terms of Liberia’s commitment, dedication and preservation of the democratic process, under the rule of law.

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