— Describes flogging of journalists as undermining free press, democracy
Charles Coffey, president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), says action by state security officers to beat on two members of the Press Union undermines not only the free press but the democracy of the country.
Mr. Coffey briefing journalists at the headquarters of the PUL on Monday, January 27, said that the attacks in recent times on journalists by some security personnel are reaching an alarming proportion that requires the timely intervention of the Liberian government.
It can be recalled that Christopher Walker, Sports Editor of FrontPage Africa newspaper, said while on duty covering the Semi-final of the National County Sports Meet at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, an EPS officer walked to him and asked him to leave the goal post toward the ELWA junction.
Walker said he was situated behind the goal post that is the official location for journalists to take photos and conduct video recordings. He also said he was accredited to cover the group C stage of the of County meet after which he came to town to continue his coverage of the national event.
While they were talking, Walker added, other police officers joined their colleagues and violently asked him to leave the area designated for journalists to stand. He said before he could say a few words of inquiry, the police officers started to forcefully pull him off the field, the position he has been since the games stated.
He explained that some of his belongings, including his camera and phone, were damaged. “My wallet, containing 250 USD and one thousand LD and my phone all got missing in the process,” Walker said, adding, “the security who first told me to leave the field said he was acting on an order that was from above.”
In a press conference on January 27, PUL president Coffey said: “It is becoming uncontrollable as such authorities of various state securities, particularly the Justice Ministry, must act now or the union will take further action.”
Coffey noted that the most recent violence perpetrated against Liberian journalists is unnecessary for a democratic state like Liberia.
“SWAL also condemned the act like PUL did, and again we condemned the act. It is inhumane, and a complete violation of Mr. Walker’s fundamental rights. It is disheartening for a peaceful media worker to be treated in such an inhumane condition and this action has undermined the relationship between the PUL and Joint security,” Mr. Coffey said.
Mr. Coffey said there has been a Memorandum of understanding intended to ensure mutual respect for both the security and the journalists thus guaranteeing the safety and protection of media workers.
He indicated “another incident occurred [on] January 26 at the SKD involving journalist Zenue Miller of Ok FM radio. Zenue informed PUL yesterday that while leaving at the end of the game at the SKD, he was asked by EPS authority to stop. According to Miller, being cognizant of VIP activities, he stopped. But to his surprise, some EPS personnel came and beat him. The incident, he said, took place near the Right to Play. Zenue is currently experiencing severe pain and undergoing medical treatment.”
Mr. Coffey said, “another incident with police involving journalist Bryant Dioh occurred in Sinoe while en route to Maryland County, where the police again manhandled him.”
He said the action of securities is profiling Liberia negatively in a very short period of time.
“This is very wrong and corrective measures must be taken to save the image and sanity of the state,” the PUL president said.
“We have communicated with the relevant state institutions responsible including the Liberia National Police, and the Ministry of Youth and Sports to conduct a speedy investigation and bring perpetrators to justice. We want the LNP Professional Standard Division to investigate the PSU and other police officers who were seen humiliating Mr. Walker,” Coffey said.
He said the order that the security was acting on came in response to a story published on January 24, 2019, captioned “Suspicion of Compromise: MYS Unexpected Changes in County Meet Fixture Raises Eyebrows.”
Journalists Christopher Walker is PUL 2019 Best Sports Journalist of Liberia while Zenue Miller works for OK FM as one of the Talk-shows a host of that institution.