By Edwin M. Fayia, III and Hannah N. Geterminah
A suspected arson attack was carried out on the residence of Journalist Smith Toby early Wednesday morning, October 18, in the Tower Hill community along the Robertsfield Highway, Margibi County. The fire was detected at an early stage by one of the young lads living there with him.
According to Toby, the station manager at OK FM, the suspected arson was committed by a group of unidentified men dressed in black outfits.
In an interview with the Daily Observer at his home, Toby noted that at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, the culprits wasted gasoline on the steel front door of his house and ignited the fire.
While the fire was blazing at the front door, Toby explained, one of the boys sleeping at the time in the living room woke up and shouted to alert everyone in the house.
Toby said he and others exited the house through the back door and brought back sand to put extinguish the fire. Thankfully, there was very minimal damage done to the property; the wooden door on the other side of the steel door sustained some burn effects.
As they put out the fire, Toby said he saw the men escape on a motorcycle on the main road.
Officers of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the Liberia National Police (LNP) Wednesday had already visited the area and carried out some preliminary findings and promised to furnish Manager Toby with the outcome soon.
Toby, however, recalled that a similar attack on his residence took place in 2011, during the presidential and legislative elections. That incident, like yesterday’s instance, was reported to the police, who promised to investigate and get back to him.
He further underscored the need for security agencies in the country to step patrols along the Robert-field highway in order to protect lives and properties from the hands of suspected criminals.
Following the departure of the CID officers, Toby and family decided to clean up the mess caused by the fire.
Meanwhile the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) described the Wednesday suspected arson attack on Toby’s home as “the most evil of assaults recorded against journalists since political activities heated up in the country.”
The PUL president, Charles B. Coffey, who described Smith Toby is “a political broadcast journalist who runs a fairly balanced, prime time talk radio show,” called on authorities of the Liberia National Police to expeditiously investigate the cause of the fire.
He said the radio station that Toby manages received commendations from the public for providing live coverage of campaign rallies for all front runners in the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections.
“Smith Toby is one of the best known journalists and personalities on radio, striving to tell the full Liberian story. The investigation into the arson attack on the home of Toby must be exhaustive, credible, and the outcome released in a timely manner,” Mr. Coffey stated. He described the attack as an act of terrorism and urged the police to bring perpetrators of the crime to justice.
Mr. Coffey stressed that the Press Union of Liberia is asking rallying lovers of liberty to standup against the alleged attack, which it has described as an attempt to cow the media in Liberia into self-censorship.