US 2019 Human Rights Report Highlights Torment Liberian Journalists Face

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Journalist Christopher Walker being manhandled by police at a football game in January 2020: "The security who first told me to leave the field said he was acting on an order that was from above," he said.

The United States Department of State (U.S. State Department) has released its human rights report for 2019, highlighting physical and emotional agonies Liberian journalists are undergoing in the George Weah Administration.

President George Weah, upon taking over in 2018 set a high public impression by decriminalizing criminal libel and slander law, which brought about the Kamara A. Kamara Act of Press Freedom. Nevertheless, the full realization to give journalists and media houses the opportunity to perform their tasks remains the predicament.

According to the report, there were some arbitrary arrests of journalists in the year under review, with Jefferson Krua, owner of the online Bush Chicken, highlighted as being punched during arrest.  In spite of following the law to file a complaint, Krua’s complaint is yet to be given attention since last year.

The court has also been very harsh on journalists according to the report.  On this, the report says, journalists are fined exorbitantly beyond imagination; referencing the case of New Dawn Publishing Manager Othello Garblah’s encounter with Judge Peter Gbeneweleh when he (Garblah) was summoned for writing an article speculating that the court was in the process of exonerating defendants in the Sable Mining case.

The report further notes that law enforcement officers occasionally harassed newspaper and radio station owners because of their political opinion and reporting, especially those that criticize government officials.  It also states that government officials harassed media members of political reasons, pointing out the case of Patrick Honnah’s Punch FM case that is yet to yield fruition despite court’s ruling that he has the right to operate his radio station.

The report also highlighted how the frequency of Roots FM of talk show host Henry Costa was jammed from February to August of last year, and on October 10 vandalized with the equipment and all other materials taken away by the government through the instrumentality of Syrenius Cephas.

While slander and libel have been decriminalized by the Weah Administration, there seems to be less care for abiding by this law.  It is recorded in the report that Minister of State Nathaniel McGill filed US$500,000 defamation suit against Roots FM and the hosts, Henry Costa and Fidel Saydee for free speech.

Press freedom and free speech were also trampled upon on June 7, 2019 during the mass citizen protest when Lonestar Cell MTN and Orange, two leading internet service providers in Liberia, blocked access to social media, perhaps on orders from the government.

Other developments not captured in the report are the recent encounters some journalists had with the Executive Protection Service (EPS) and the Liberia National Police (LNP).  Journalist Zenu Miller reported that while at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports during the grand final of the National County Sports Meet, he was attacked the EPS, and since that encounter he became sick and died three weeks after the encounter.  There was also another encounter that involved a reporter working with Frontpage Africa, who was manhandled by the police alleged on orders “from higher up”.

Just yesterday, March 11, a report with an image of journalist James Kadii appeared on social media indicating that he was beaten by a police officer.

With the prevailing situation, the US State Department’s report said many journalists have adopted self-censorship for fear of attack while media houses themselves are avoiding being critical in order not to lose advertisements from government.  Journalists and media houses are also reported of charging money to publish articles or host people on talk show.

10 COMMENTS

  1. But Ellen Johnson Sirleaf regime had human rights violations on its hands. And according to George’s regime, the beat goes on with his regime also.

    • So when is it going to end, because Ellen’s administration did it so, the George Weah’s Administration got licenses to do the same. Where are we going as a country.

  2. The defamation suit against Roots FM and the hosts, Henry Costa and Fidel Saydee WAS NEVER “for free speech”! he defamation suit against Roots FM and the hosts, Henry Costa and Fidel Saydee was for their defamatory attacks,libel, and slander against these citizens; and in effect their violation of CLAUSE 1 OF ARTICLE 15 of the Liberian Constitution which stipulates that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof.”

    The Zenu Miller´s family has since made clear to the public that what was written in press that “Zenu Miller was attacked the EPS, and since that encounter he became sick and died three weeks after the encounter” was a fabrication, as medical reports from the ELWA Hospital proved otherwise.

    Does the police or anyone even have to tell a journalist “leave the field”? The journalist should know better that even he has to be told to leave the field, when the police told him to leave the field he should have left the field forthwith. But “look at the journalist”. His dressing or appearance alone is enough to tell anyone that he is a hooligan!

    • WoW: so the man dressing is the cause of him being beating by the police, what is sad story.” Press freedom and free speech” means Press freedom and free speech, no body or police has the right to beat anybody for what they say and write, only the court has the power to judge what he or she says, and that should be judge by a fine of jail time, by beating someone because of what they write and say is not in the constitution that you are quoting. George Weah and his group of hooligan will be out of power one day and you will have an administration that will not take this nonsense that is going on in the country. Police suppose to be the friends of the people not enemies to the citizens.

    • Yes, Ahmed Jalloh. This too is Liberia where journalists are PAID By politicians especially from the opposition to LIE AND LIE, AND LIE, AND LIE! This too is Liberia where journalists are former freedom killers claiming to be “freedom fighters”.

      This too is Liberia where Representatives and Senators are former rebels, and former rebel commandos who killed innocent civilians and burnt down schools as is the case with Senator Prince Johnson and Senator Sando Dazoe Johnson who did not hide his own but announced to the Liberian people that he is a former rebel commando!

  3. THIS IS A COUNTRY WHERE FORMER REBEL LEADERS ARE WORKING AS GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, THAT TELLS YOU A LOT ABOUT THE PEOPLE LIVING IN THE COUNTRY. THESE FORMER REBEL LEADERS ARE LIVING AT THE EXPENSE OF THE SAME PEOPLE THEY VICTIMIZED, UNBELIEVABLE. THIS IS A COUNTRY WHERE CORRUPTION IS NOT A CRIME AT AL MY PEOPLE . WHAT A COUNTRY WITH SO MANY MANY FOOLS LIVING IN PARADISE ON THE DAILY BASIS. SWEET LIBERIA

  4. A country like Liberia, with assertive tourism at her sights, should establish an Office of Ombudsman to trace, investigate, and evaluate all human rights-related accusations. Big bully Uncle Sam shouldn’t be telling my countrymen how badly they behave based on the words of mostly biased sources.

  5. Those who think press freedom can actually obtain in a country like Liberia, a country where leaders abhor scrutiny, are just being unrealistic. So when powerful people use their positions to resort to libel or defamation lawsuits, they do so not because the reported accounts are false, rather, it is a brazen attempt to create a chilling effect among the media for telling stories that are simply exposes the bare truth.

    Sometimes some media reports turn out to be either be false or misleading, due to the laziness and failure to verify sources. In that case, public officials, can ask for a either a retraction or correction. But usually, the resonse is much more sinister.With state power and the muscles of state police violence at the command of an offended official, harassment and actual physical violence against offending media is all but guaranteed.

    This sort of atmosphere is always present where corruption is entrenched and pervasive. Most people who have the tendency to harass media folk, in the first place, never sort positions of power for unselfish reasons. They came with corruption in mind and would prefer they do such deeds quietly and discretely (in the dark). Naturally, when the media shines light into such dark places, crooks and criminals feel violated and this sort of thing can really ruffle quite a bunch of feathers!

    You see, both the media and the corrupt politicians have opposing pursuits in life: politicians endeavor to conceal and the media lives to expose and tell all. A real clash is enevitatable here, I dare say. But the one thing needed for freedom of expression, speech and press to exist is the rule of law. And the undermining of the rule of law has been purposefully and effectively created by those who triumph in the pursuit of evil. Intimidation, harassment, and even murders of journalists who dare to intrude will certainly not decrease. Rather, they will occur with regularity and impunity in this status quo and the sky is the limit!

  6. love one another if we are of jesus christ we will not fight one another because god is of love if read the bible you will see god send king david to fight war and kill them all.and it is because those people were wicked evil.saide jr ahmad for president of america:2020 super rich america greencard for all jobs for all justice for all housing for all born in america

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