By Jonathan O. Grigsby, Snr. Contributor
MONROVIA-The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) has termed as gruesome and barbaric the recent attack on members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia by supporters of the ruling Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC). ALJA in a press release issued on Thursday of this week, condemned in the strongest term the unprovoked attack on the students and the community.
“It indicated that the attack on the students was ill-advised and is reminiscent of the country’s dark past when the constitutionally- guaranteed rights of Liberians were flagrantly trampled upon by agents of the ruling regime”.
The Association, quoting independent media reports and video footage of the event, showed that the SUP members were confronted and attacked by the CDC-Council of Patriots during a protest called by the students to denounce bad governance and its vices in the country including corruption, poverty, and insecurity under the Weah led administration.
The protest, which was held on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, on the grounds of the United States Embassy, showed student Christopher Sivili of SUP being brutalized and tortured while state security officers in close proximity offer no help in protecting him.
ALJA stressed that no Liberian should be assaulted or dehumanized for peacefully exercising their fundamental right to assemble and petition their government as guaranteed under the constitution.
The Association, therefore calls on the government to go beyond the issuance of a mere statement of condemnation and prosecute the perpetrators who are captured in several videos on social media of the barbaric act. It said failure to do so would suggest tacit support by the ruling establishment of the brutality meted against the students of the state-run university.
The American-based Liberian Journalists organization expressed concern that this type of violent attack against a group the ruling party perceives as an enemy of the government could scare the opposition into silence, with potentially negative consequences for the conduct of the 2023 Presidential and General Elections.
At the same time, ALJA is calling on Liberians of all political persuasions to condemn the recent attack on student Christopher and the other SUP members because it has the potential of reversing the democratic gains Liberia has made in recent years.
ALJA is a conglomeration of current and retired Liberian journalists residing in the Americas.
In a related development, the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) has condemned in the strongest terms the violence meted out against protesting students of the University of Liberia’s Student Unification Party outside the United States Embassy on July 26.
The CEMESP says, there can be no justification for anyone to be brutalized by thugs for expressing their views regardless of how their opponents feel.
The group says: “The barbarous act of the thugs led by a known partisan of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change must be responded to forcefully by the government if the impression that it was state-sponsored is to be avoided”.
It noted that the violent act which went unchallenged by the police and other state security agents was reminiscent of similar actions carried out during Liberia’s civil war and its many years of dictatorships.
In a statement released in Monrovia on last week, CEMESP called on the government to immediately arrest each of the thugs shown violently assaulting a protester in the video of the incident and speedily bring them to justice for their crimes, as a way of discouraging any future occurrence of such act.
The Media development and freedom of expression group emphasized that Liberia has felt too many pains for state authorities to allow people to settle their disagreements with others by resorting to thuggish and extrajudicial violent action.
CEMESP is therefore cautioning the government to adopt a zero tolerance for thuggish jungle justice as an unjustified attack on peaceful protesters could trigger the desire for and perpetration of counteraction by rival groups, which is a recipe for dragging the country into anarchy.