LIBERIA: UN Secretary General Concern about Nations Times Editor

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Bin Ki-Moon last year expressed concern over the fate of Liberian Journalist including the Publisher of the Nation Times Newspaper, Mr. Octavin T. Williams.

According to the paper, quoting the 28th Progress Report to the UN General Assembly of the United Nations on the United Nations Mission In Liberia (UNMIL), Mr. Bin Ki-Moon said in July, publisher Octavin Williams was detained and later charged with assaulting a police officer.

Despite this information provided by the Liberia National Police, the Press Union of Liberia publicly condemned what it characterized as a “classic act of harassment” compelling self-censorship of journalists.

Journalist Williams have been consistently harassed over the years by state security and other individuals who his paper reported on involving acts of corruption and other  vices.

The UN boss in his progress report raised the issue of concerns about the safety of Liberian journalists compelling self censorship especially stories that are not in favor of the Government of Liberia and individuals involved in unwholesome practices.

Mr. Bin Ki-Moon also expressed concern over Government's commitment to press freedom were triggered by arrests of outspoken critics of the President. Like Mr. William, Publisher of the Nation Times, radio journalist Henry Costa who was detained between March and July of 2014 on charges of “terroristic threats” for statements made during a broadcast about Fomba Sirleaf, the President's step son and head of the National Security Agency.
 
Mr. Williams was honored recently by a pro-media group, the Foundation for Investigative Reporting and Editing (FIRE) as Investigative Journalist of the year.

In a special statement on behalf of the group, Mr. Philip G. Moore head of FIRE the group's decision to honor Mr. Williams is predicated upon his numerous efforts in unearthing stories borders on national interest and his strives to bring about professionalism to the journalism profession.

The group's Chief Executive Officer, Philip G. Moore said journalist Williams have gone through some difficult times in informing the public on critical national issues as an Investigative Journalist some of which include prolong detention, ridicule, disrespect and accusation by his critics.

In a related news, when the report came out, the Security Council, by its resolution 2116 (2013), at the time, extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) until 30 September 2014, and requested the UNSG to keep it informed of the situation in Liberia and the implementation of that resolution.

According to Mr. Bin, the present report provides an update on major developments since his report of 18 February 2014 (S/2014/123), and contains the findings and recommendations of a strategic review and electoral needs assessment missions conducted during the period under review.

On 16 June, Christopher Neyor, former president of the National Oil Company of Liberia, published an open letter to President Johnson Sirleaf con tainting detailed allegations of nepotism, cronyism, corruption and political interference in the management of the oil sector, including the solicitation of bribes, which allegedly were used for her campaign activities in 2011 and now to advance the political and economic prospects of her son, Robert Sirleaf, former Chair of the Board of

Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia. The President publicly denied the allegations, while the House of Representatives and the Liberia Anti -Corruption Commission announced their intentions to investigate. Meanwhile, Mr. Sirleaf and Mr. Neyor announced their intention to contest the Montserrado senate seat as independent candidates, respectively, on 17 July and 23 July.

Concerns about the Government's commitment to press freedom were triggered by arrests of outspoken critics of the President. Radio journalist Henry Costa was detained in March on charges of “terroristic threats” for statements made during a broadcast about Fomba Sirleaf, the President's stepson and head of the National Security Agency. In July, publisher Octavin Williams was detained and later charged with assaulting a police officer. The Press Union of Liberia publicly condemned what it characterized as a “classic act of harassment” compelling self censorship of journalists.

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