The Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives has distanced itself from claims that Speaker Bhofal Chambers was the one who ordered revocation of some reporters’ accreditations assigned at the Liberian Legislature. Speaker Chambers, through his Political Affairs Officer, George Watkins, said such allegations are “disingenuous”, noting that the Speaker has nothing to do with accreditation of journalists, rather, it is the Press Bureau of the House of Representatives.
According to Mr. 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 from the House further stated 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 also 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”.
The release from the House comes against the backdrop of claims from the Legislative Reporters Association of Liberia (LEGISPOL) calling out Speaker Chambers for his ‘unlawful’ decision to revoke the accreditations of its president, Musa Kenneh, and some members of the press group.
LEGISPOL maintained that Speaker Chambers and his Director for Press and Public Affairs have absolutely no 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.
For us at the Insight, we see the reaction from the Speaker’s Office and that of the Director of Press and Public Affairs as lame-duck justifications for attempting to stifle press freedom.
When did it become the prerogative of the Liberian Legislature or the Executive Mansion or whichever institution where media institutions assign their journalists to provide coverage for public consumption, to seek the rotation of those journalists because they are “redundant and repetitive”?
What really does Mr. Redd mean by saying that those reporters whose accreditations were revoked were now redundant and repetitive?
We believe it is the business of respective media institutions to replace their assigned reporters at institutions of coverage based on the institutions’ own assignment code.
Having said that, we call on all media institutions whose reporters had their accreditations revoked to stand by their workers and stand up against the stifling of press freedom. For failing to do so, the next reporter that is assigned at the Capitol Building will be similarly recalled when he or she starts reporting on issues without fear or favor.
The case of CNN White House Correspondent Jim Costa should be a guiding post for media institutions in Liberia as well. We have the same laws here just as in the United States. Our Legislature just passed the Abdullah Kamara Press Freedom Act, signaling a drastic deviation from our country’s draconian laws that stifled free expression.
Let our media institutions and those affected journalists test the law if the House and its surrogates refuse to restore their rights.
This is no bootlicking matter.