In the wake of reports that House Speaker Bhofal Chambers ordered the revocation of some reporters’ accreditation assigned at the Liberian Legislature, the office of the Speaker of the House of Representative says such allegations are “disingenuous”, and that Speaker Chambers has nothing to do with accreditation of journalists, rather, it is the Press Bureau of the House of Representatives.
According to a press release from the Office of Speaker Chambers, under the signature of his Political Affairs Officer George Watkins, “the workings of the House of Representatives are institutional; and coordination is the hallmark to match out positive deliverables in the best interest of the government and people of Liberia.”
The release stated further that departments at the Legislature are guided by standard administrative procedures, some of which are discretional, given the circumstance(s) in an instance.
“It is the independent responsibility of the House of Representatives Press Bureau to accredit news mediums and their assigned Journalists to the Capitol Building, so it is left with the same Press Bureau to revoke an accreditation of any news medium and its assigned Journalist the Bureau deemed “redundant and repetitive” in the discharge of functions of their privileged assignment(s),” the release noted, adding that, without the consent of the Speaker, the Press Bureau of the House of Representatives is duly authorized to accredit Journalists at the Capitol Building on a privileged basis to carry out their respective reportage.
The Office of the Speaker intimated that the Bureau’s recent action to revoke some Journalists accreditations will be respected based on the “spirit of synergism and constructive reasonableness”, and prayed that all Journalists assigned at the Capitol Building “will always conduct themselves patriotically in line with their code of professional standards”.
It can be recalled, the Legislative Reporters Association of Liberia (LEGISPOL) recently called out Speaker Chambers for his ‘unlawful’ decision to revoke the accreditations of its president, Musa Kenneh, and some members of the press group.
LEGISPOL, in reaction to the House decision, said neither Speaker Chambers nor his Director for Press and Public Affairs has the constitutional right to revoke the accreditation of any journalist, and that such behavior is a clear constitutional breach that casts a dark cloud on the recently passed Abdullah Kamara Act of Press Freedom. The Legislative Press Group then called on Speaker Chambers to reinstate the rights of all journalists whose accreditations were revoked, or else they would seek remedial actions.
The House Director of Press and Public Affairs, Isaac Redd, however clarified that Speaker Chambers had nothing to do with his (Redd’s) decision to revoke the accreditation of certain journalists assigned at the Liberian Legislature, stating that the decision was based on the need to infuse new reporters and move those that are redundant and repetitive.
Mr. Redd further stated that his decision was also based on what he termed best practice intended to enhance aggressive media service for public consumption.
The House decision to revoke the accreditation of certain journalists assigned at the Liberian Legislature comes against the backdrop of the recent case of CNN White House correspondent Jim Costa whose accreditation was revoked upon the orders of United States President Donald Trump.
Following CNN’s decision to stand by its correspondent, citing that he had nothing ethically wrong to deserve such disgrace, Mr. Costa took his case to the courts and won. Costa is back at the White House, reporting as if nothing ever happened.
“I think the decision by the House to revoke the accreditation of some journalists was political, rather than based on the need to enhance professionalism,” says a former Legislative correspondent who now works as a consultant at a state agency.
Pundits believe it is basically the prerogative of media institutions to recall their reporters on a rotational basis, or because of ethical breaches in the discharge of their duties.