LIBERIA: WAJA Boss Steps Down from Presidential Committee Probing Violence against Journalists

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“On the 1st of April, I was forced to make a public clarification to the effect that the chairman of the Committee, Presidential envoy, Dr. Larry Bropleh, had been quoted in the news announcing suspension of the investigation until April 15 for fear of the coronavirus, with no input from other committee members. And even after making such unilateral decision to suspend, the Chairman has yet to convene any meeting.”
– Peter Quaqua, President, West Africa Association of Journalists

Monrovia – Mr. Peter Quaqua, a former President of the Press Union of Liberia and current President of the West Africa Journalists Association has tendered in his resignation from a special Presidential Committee named by President George Manneh Weah to investigate violence against journalists. 

In a statement Sunday, Mr. Quaqua says his decision stems from  the lack of activity since the committee was established.

Mr. Quaqua said he accepted the President’s call on March 18, 2020 in good faith as an opportunity give his input on the surge in assaults on journalists by state security personnel. 

The Government constituted the committee after receiving a petition from the Press Union of Liberia, amid street protest by journalists on 12 March 2020. I was one of those who subsequently backed the call for the Government to conduct a speedy investigation in the attacks with the view to punishing perpetrators to serve as a deterrent. 

“I have been very reluctant to take this decision in the interest of the afflicted journalists, especially after being urged by some colleagues and relations to stay the course, against calls by few to backdown. Essentially, after giving what I thought was sufficient notice in my April 1st statement, there has been no tangible action to proceed with the investigation.

– Peter Quaqua, President, West Africa Association of Journalists

Mr. Quaqua however said since the appointment of the committee, more than a month now, with a mandate to report in ten working days, the committee has never met, which makes him to wonder whether the Government ever intended giving the aggrieved journalists redress in the first place. 

Mr. Quaqua has not hidden his disagreement over the appointment of a presidential advisor, former Information Minister Laurence Bropleh as head of the committee. “On the 1st of April, I was forced to make a public clarification to the effect that the chairman of the Committee, Presidential envoy, Dr. Larry Bropleh, had been quoted in the news announcing suspension of the investigation until April 15 for fear of the coronavirus, with no input from other committee members. And even after making such unilateral decision to suspend, the Chairman has yet to convene any meeting.”

The WAJA President said in view of the current impasse, he has no choice but to withdraw his membership from the committee. “I have been very reluctant to take this decision in the interest of the afflicted journalists, especially after being urged by some colleagues and relations to stay the course, against calls by few to backdown. Essentially, after giving what I thought was sufficient notice in my April 1st statement, there has been no tangible action to proceed with the investigation. I am therefore convinced that the committee was merely a smokescreen. Hence, I feel vindicated to stand-down at this stage. I do so however with a heavy heart because once again, our political leaders seem to have missed another opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the safety of journalists.”

Mr. Quaqua expressed thanks to President Weah for the appointment and wished the  committee well whenever it decides to probe the violence against the affected journalists.

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