The Inquirer Nimba County correspondent, Solomon Gaye, was on Sunday, March 15, 2020, held hostage by officers of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) for taking a Ganta street photo that the officers claimed they remained in.
Reporter Solomon Gaye told the Daily Observer that on Sunday, March 15, 2020, he was carrying on his regular journalistic duty on the main street of Ganta, when three men of LDEA came and surrounded him, accusing him of taking their pictures.
He said he had just emerged from a petition program for senatorial aspirant Edith Gongloe-Weh, onto the crowded street of Ganta. Gaye therefore decided to take a photo of the crowded street when the LDEA officers accused him of snapping them.
“I didn’t even know them because they were not in their uniform,” he said.
He explained that they came and asked him to delete the photos he had taken of them, or they will have him subdued and take the camera away.
“I refused to adhere to their demand, telling them that I was performing my duty,” said Gaye.
“They surrounded me, forcing me to see the pictures or delete them at once until a man, believed to be an officer of the Police Support Unit (PSU), came and took us to the police station,” he explained.
He said that while at the station, the officer at the Charge of Quarter of the Ganta Police Detail asked him to produce the camera and the police scrolled through it but could not find any picture of his accusers.
“I was molested and harassed like a criminal,” he said.
“I was well identified and dressed up in my journalistic vest with the inscription, ‘Inquirer Press’ on the back,” Gaye said.
When contacted, the Ganta Police Detail Commander, Adolphus Zouh, confirmed the incident but said the case was dismissed because the police did not see any LDEA officers’ photo in the camera.
He, however, did not name the LDEA officers involved, but only described him as the ‘chief of operation’ of Nimba County.
Efforts to get the response of the LDEA Nimba Detachment proved futile as their contact numbers remain perpetually switched off.
Last year Solomon Gaye reported that he was intimidated at the magisterial court in Ganta while following a drug case involving a fugitive Maryland dealer, who was nabbed by the police. The case, which was later forwarded to the LDEA for investigation, remains under the carpet with no information heard about it since last year.
In recent days attention has been drawn to numerous maltreatments journalists receive from state securities, involving the police, Immigration and the Drug Enforcement Agency, as well as the Executive Protection Service (EPS).
Journalists have in most instances been beaten by state security while on duty as recorded even in the US State Department Human Rights Report for 2019. The death of journalist Zenu Miller has been attributed to an encounter he claimed to have had with the EPS on the SKD Sports Complex, where he was reportedly beaten by the officers.
Because of the humiliation faced by journalists under the Weah administration, Liberian journalists under the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) and the Reporters Association (RAL) took to the streets in protest and presented their petition to the United States Embassy, the European Union, the British Embassy and the Executive Mansion.
The action has led the government to establish a five-man committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding press freedom and free speech, which journalists say have been infringed upon by the government, leading to acts of violence against some of them.