MONROVIA May 8—Liberian journalists have rejected a new call by the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information to accredit certain members to report on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was reached on Friday at a mass meeting attended by many journalists in the country.
Deputy information minister, Eugene Fahngon announced this week that any journalist who fails to get a pass to report on the COVID-19 pandemic after the 3pm deadline, will be arrested and incarcerated.
When the state of Emergency was announced last month, the ministry invited the journalists Union-Press Union of Liberia(PUL) leadership and other auxiliary group leaders at a meeting to have a collaborative working relations in issuing passes for the coverage. At that meeting, the ministry said it would grant passes to journalists who submitted their names to the union for onward submission for printing.
However, after the initial two weeks of the lockdown expired, the ministry unilaterally went to print new set of cards with the intend of restricting some media houses which they deemed have been critical of George Weah’s government.
“The Press Union of Liberia, at a mass meeting today, May 8, has resolved that its members will continue the use of their appropriate institutional and the Union’s identity cards at all times to carry out their duties,” the statement said.
The statement added, “the Union also sees the constraints being imposed by the government as running contrary to the warning of the United Nations Secretary General in his statement marking this year’s World Press Freedom Day.”
“The press union is warning that the government of Liberia will be held responsible for any harm and intimidation suffered by journalists and media workers during the discharge of their duties in the face of the current threats through the deputy minister of Information, Eugene Fahngon.”
“The Union sees as a complete violation of the MOU reached between its leadership and the government, Minister Fahngon’s decision to unilaterally accredit journalists to cover the COVID-19 pandemic in isolation of the PUL.”
The PU L further said, it remains open to constructive engagements and discussions with the government in the interest of the mutual understanding that should be existing between the two sides and encourages its members to continue to use their official working and PUL accreditation cards to carry on their functions.
Meanwhile at the meeting, a journalist who had earlier received the new press pass issued by the ministry of Information was beaten on Thursday, May 7 while leaving from his office. TNR