The Liberian media says the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continues to harass and intimidate journalists as they perform their duties. Earlier this week journalists assigned to the presidential palace were reportedly detained by the Special Security Service and their cameras seized. The Press Union of Liberia responded by threatening a news black-out against the government. Information Minister Johnny McClain paid a surprise visit to the Press Union office Thursday; he spoke with Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty about the outcome of his visit.
“This morning the entire media, both radio and newspapers, came with the announcement that they had intentions to do a black-out on government. So I thought it was necessary that I call on the Press Union leadership to assure them that the Liberian government still is committed to press freedom and that there is a standing policy of respect and cordiality toward the press, and I assured the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia that…I will talk with the president directly to see what can be done, if an investigation can be launched. But I asked them to cool the waters to ease the tension so that dialogue and reconciliation between the press and the government can proceed.”
Minister McClain says President Sirleaf is concerned that incidents of media harassment and intimidation may tarnish her image.
“Definitely we are concerned because I personally know that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is concerned, and that she truly believes her government wants to promote press freedom and democracy, and as I have always said, the media is a pillow within the construction of democracy in any country, especially ours coming from 14 years of devastation of civil war. We do believe that could definitely harm the image of our president and the country.”
Minister McClain says President Sirleaf herself had planned to personally meet with the Press Union Liberia this Sunday to discuss her 150 day deliverables that she had promised the Liberian people.”
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