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Mansion journalists raise security fears

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Accredited journalists covering the Executive Mansion in Monrovia say they see as an attempt to compromise their safety, claims by Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Smith Toby that they are “opposition journalists” and referring to assigned female journalists as ‘lazy set of people who do not take their work seriously.

“We also consider Toby’s dangerous statement of calling us opposition journalists as having the proclivity to compromise the safety of members of the EM Press Corps because we come in contact with State security and protocol officers every time in the discharge of our journalistic duty, a call we owe to our country,” the group’s statement issued Thursday, 19 September says.

Further, the group under the banner Executive Mansion Press Corps strongly condemns as an act of harassment of two of its members by the head of the General Services Agency (GSA), Madam Mary Broh, prior to the arrival of President George Manneh Weah at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town on Monday, to grace an ECOWAS Parliamentary session.

Before President Weah’s arrival, the group narrate that its members were duly screened at the first entrance by Executive Protection Service (EPS) officers but were stopped by other officers posted to the main doors to the conference hall.Eventually, the statement says Madam Broh surfaced in an uncivil manner and instructed the security to push the journalists away. “Our colleagues however complied and continued to display their professional identification cards including Executive Mansion Press Pass issued to them, but Broh could not stop bellowing at them condescendingly,” the group notes.

According to them, Broh had argued that the journalists should have been at the venue as early as 4:00 A.M. as she, a sexagenarian, had done.
“Even though our colleagues told her that all they needed [to] do was be there before the President; but, Broh said: “I myself will tell President Weah that you are late.”

“As the journalists keenly watched Broh woof at them—a clear deal of abuse of power—she, however, finally gave them access but not without pouring a scorn on them after she saw the President disembarked his vehicle and approached the building with his entourage,” the statement continues.The EM Press Corps sees these “regressive acts” on the parts of Smith Toby and Mary Broh as “avenues reawakening threats against journalists in the country.”

Further, they believe that these are planned actions intended to hinder freedom of the press and dampen the recent steps by the Government to promote a society where journalists can carry out their duty without any form of fear or intimidation.The EM Press Corps strongly condemns the unprovoked verbal attack launched against its female members by the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary Smith Toby and for branding members of the group as “opposition journalists.”

According to the group, Toby had asked that it submit a name of a representative to the office of his immediate boss, Solo Kelgbeh, for that reporter to travel with President Weah to the United States to attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The Press Corps’ leader SamukaiDukuly did submit the name of Journalist Denise Nimpson, one of the assigned female journalists from a private broadcast house.

Suddenly the group observes that Toby made a U-turn and began jabbering unfavorable comments against their female colleagues and the entire media group.Ms. Nimpson was finally rejected because Toby had labeled female journalists as ‘lazy set of people who do not take their work seriously, and that he wouldn’t want any of them taken to the U.S. just to be taking selfie pictures.’

The group say Toby repeated the utterances in a meeting with the press corps following a regular Tuesday press briefing at the Foreign Affairs office of the President.“…[We] condemn the unwarranted outburst on us by Toby as not only outrageous, insulting, pejorative, provocative, and uncivilized, but an attempt to undermine the “Feminist-in-Chief” acclamation being enjoyed by President Weah.

As a subset of the Press Union of Liberia, the group calls on the PUL leadership and all others concerned to seriously take note of these occurrences with an understanding that assigned journalists at the Mansion now work in a fragile environment.“No journalist deserves to be bullied or threatened in her/his line of duty,” the group warns.–Press release

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