Local journalists in Nimba working for community radio stations and as correspondents for media institutions in Monrovia have expressed gratitude to the joint security of Nimba comprising the Liberia National Police, Liberia Immigration Service, and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency for its respect for press freedom and tolerance exercised towards them.
Since the declaration of the state of emergency that led to restriction on movements especially between Montserrado and Margibi on the one hand, and Montserrado and Nimba on the other hand, journalists especially those in Monrovia have found it difficult to do their work regardless of the existence of the Freedom of Information Act and the constitutional provision that allows press freedom.
Contrary to the Libertarian Theory under which the press operates in Liberia, the Ministry of Information in concert with state security in Monrovia is creating a stifling environment for the press by allowing only institutions and journalists it favors to report the COVID-19 issues.
Currently, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon has issued new passes to some journalists through their institutions granting them the opportunity to cover the COVID-19 issues, and the Press Union of Liberia has equally condemned the act and urged all of its members to reject the passes.
Amid the restriction in the capital denying many journalists the right to perform their duty to society, the joint security of Nimba is receiving lavish praises from local journalists for creating an enabling environment that allows them to perform without intimidation, harassment or any act that may impede their work.
Raily Guanbei of Voice of Gompa said: “Journalists and the joint security here have a very cordial relationship. Even by hearing that you are a journalist, the police will give you some preference, and since this lockdown, they continue to cooperate with us even beyond the 3 p.m. schedule that states everyone must be home.”
Thomas Sieh of Radio Kergheamahn also emphasized that at late hours he leaves his radio station to go home without any intimidation. “All they do is to ask me for my ID card or my name, and when they hear and recognize it in connection with the radio, I pass freely without any intimidation,” said Sieh.
Robert Matally of Radio Saclepea also said, “From Ganta to Sanniquellie and the rest of the county we have no problem with the security. When they see our ID cards and those who know us personally cannot allow us to even stop at the checkpoint.”
Melvin Suah and Aaron Weah of Radio Nimba also said that the joint security in Nimba has no problem and they are working in a peaceful environment from the beginning of the county to the end. “The relation is not only mutual but cordial without any embarrassment that could prevent us from working,” said Melvin Suah.
Franklin Doloquee, one of the most popular local journalists respected by many for his critical reports in the Frontpage Africa Newspaper said: “The relationship here is better than Monrovia because the police and other security officers here do not embarrass us for a pass as it is in Monrovia. We work and leave later hours in the night, but no day has any officer threatened us or stop us in exercising our duty.”
The only area where reports recently emerged about police harassment was Tappita, but City Mayor Sam Kpahn says it was a single one-day event when police were driving people from the market in compliance with the stay-at-home time of 3 p.m.
“Since that day the police drove the people from the market to comply with the time of stay home and the social distancing, there is no incident of such, and it was not harassment as it has been speculated,” declared Mayor Kpahn.
The Ganta Police Detail is under the command of Inspector Adolphus Zuah. In his comment concerning relations with the press, he said: “The Freedom of Information Act is here allowing journalists to report what they see, and it is an instrument of government that we must respect as security.”
Furthermore, Inspector Zuah said police officers know almost all the local journalists and therefore have no need to be suspicious of anyone. “In the case where a strange journalist comes, it only takes us the time to see his or her identity, and when we know he or she is a journalist from a recognized media institution, we allow you do your work,” he added.