The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said it is repulsed by the increasing instances of state security forces flogging journalists covering the news as a calculated plan to intimidate and harass the independent media, and deter them from reporting occurrences in our society.
The PUL says no serious government which believes in the rule of law would countenance any spur of the minute and barbaric response like public flogging and assault of anyone, least of all a journalist – regardless of the alleged offense committed.
The PUL’s statement comes in the wake of alleged repeated, unsubstantiated and ruthless beating of journalists by police officers at various incidents around the country.
The PUL protested against two instances within the last one week, where journalists were reportedly harassed and assaulted as they carried out their work.
In the first instance, journalists Leila Gbati of the Women Voices newspaper and Alloycious David of The News newspaper were allegedly ruthlessly beaten on Tuesday, August 19, by Police Support Unit (PSU) officers, as they were covering an event where private school teachers converged at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to draw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s attention to the delay in the payment of their “Ebola Hardship” benefits.
At this public gathering, reporter Leila Gbati was allegedly whipped while photographing scenes of the teachers’ protest, leading to the loss of her camera and wounds on her upper right body. Reporter Alloycious David was reportedly roughed up and assaulted at the same event.
Likewise, an officer of the Liberia National Police only identified as Sonkalay, allegedly assaulted reporters Emmanuel Degleh and Joseph B. Sackie, while they were attending a press conference at the Kakata, Margibi Police Detachment.
This new wave of flogging of journalists suggests to the Union that there is a calculated attempt to threaten journalists, and limit space for peaceful discourse.
The PUL Acting President, Jallah Grayfield, said unlawful flogging is a barbaric act that has no place in any democratic society.
Mr. Grayfield said “Journalists are not whipping dogs, and stressed that the Press Union is considering all legal approaches to curb the despicable conduct of state security officers against journalists in Liberia.”