MONROVIA-In continuation of ongoing efforts to deter impunity against journalists and media workers in Liberia, the Press Union of Liberia, (PUL) has released its latest Media Alert aimed at tracking attacks and intimidation of media practitioners in Liberia.
The Media Alert Report includes threats, attacks, lawsuits and intimidation of Liberian Journalists by State Actors, non- State Actors, Supporters of Politicians and some other Members of the Public as well as ethical transgressions of media practitioners.
The Alert Reports will also highlight other major issues, including critical analysis of the trend being taken by the Liberian Media Environment, considering the nature of space being offered by state actors for the media to thrive.
This Media Alert Report of the Press Union of Liberia is made possible by a grant from the UNDEF and Strengthening Independent Media & Freedom of Information Project in Liberia being managed by VOSEIDA, the University of Liberia Department of Media Studies and Communications. The report covers the period of October to December 2023, and it is continuation of the quarterly documentation of attacks and intimidation against journalists and media workers which will be published for the next five years as part of the roll-out of the UNDEF assistance to the Union through VOISEIDA.
The full report
As part of the UNDEF funded Strengthening Independent Media & Freedom of Information Project in Liberia being implemented by the Volunteers for Sustainable Development in Africa (VOSIEDA), the Press Union of Liberia, and the University of Liberia Department of Communication & Media Studies is receiving support to highlight support for media the media in the discharge of its duties. The project is intended to professionalize the Media in Liberia; and- enable reporting of attacks against the journalists through a coordinated reporting system. This report represents the implementation of the roll out of partial activities aligned with the final quarter of the UNDEF Grant to the VOSIEDA and its partners.
During this period, the Press Union of Liberia tracked two attacks against journalists and well documented two law suits against journalists. During this period because of the election activities across the media, there was limited activities of the National Media Council.
This report covers the period October to December 2022and intents to capture violence against journalists and media workers across the country.
The Alert report, as we all may know have been focusing on threats/attacks and lawsuits against journalists and media institutions in Liberia, including issues of free speech. We have also tracked the deportment of journalists who covered the entire country during this quarter.
The methodology entails the review of local dailies, monitoring of local radios (news cast and talk shows) andanalysis of direct complaints from reporters in the countiesand the PUL Crimes App created through the support of VOSIEDA.
Figures gathered are normally verified by going on the troubled spots, getting in touch with independent sources on the ground, as well as making contacts with civil society actors. At the same time, the Media Alert Office makes contacts with the Press Union’s Coordinators in the various counties, as part of its tracking process.
On December 28, 2022, Journalist Mohammed Sheriff,Correspondent of ELBC was sued by Madam Mary G. Varney, President of a local women group for a published article on his Facebook page. The article titled “DISMISS THEM” AGGRIEVED WOMEN IN BOMI CALLED ON AUTHORITIES OF THE COUNTY.
Journalist Sheriff stated that the story was based on and interviewed listened on PUMA FM some aggrieved women called for the dismissal county official including the superintendent.
The Office of Bomi County Superintendent launched an investigation into the claim by the aggrieved women under the banner rural women structure seeking the dismissal of three officials of the Bomi Rural Women Association. It can be recalled on December 21st 2022, the aggrieved women group presented a seven count petition to officials in the County seeking the removal of Madam Mary G. Varney, President, Miatta A. Monger financial secretary and Tenneh Moore messenger for what they described as loss of confidence in their respective leadership abilities.
According to Journalist Sheriff, the group under the signatories of 115 women from across the civil society in Bomi further accused the three officials of singlehandedly running the affairs of the Rural Women Association andaccusing them embezzling monies intended for the growth and development of local organizations in the County.
In his complaint, he mentioned that the Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Superintendent, Victor Johnson disclosed that the communication from the aggrieved women was received and was as of the time undergoing serious investigation. Johnson at the same time used the occasion to call on both parties to refrain from acts of violence and stressed that lawlessness has the ability to undermine the peace.
But appearing on one of the stations in Bomi, two of the three accused Madam Monger and Madam Moore distanced themselves from all of the counts against them.
In action to the lawsuit, the Bomi Journalists Network placed a media block-out on Madam Varney for what thebody termed as flagrant disregard for the woks of the media in county.
Kakata, on December 2, 2022 Journalist Richard Duke Baysah of the Liberia News Agency (LINA), was ordered jailed by Associate Magistrate, Melvin McCauley after his car was parked at the dedicated site assigned the magistrate of the Kakata Magisterial Court.
Duke Baysah was incarcerated and charged with contempt of court for allegedly parking where Associate Magistrate McCauley usually parked.
The Journalism Community in Margibi condemned the detention of the journalist and requested his immediate release. The Press Union of Liberia negotiated his release and had the matter settled.
On December 5, 2022, the Voice of Liberia complained to the press Union of Liberia of an attack on one of itsreporters, Patrick T. Saah by securities at the Ministry of Justice.
VOL told the PUL that it assigned its reporters at the Justice Ministry to solicit views of civil servants and political appointees’ arrival at work. The broadcaster intent was to hold public workers accountable for the job they signed out to do.
The Management of VOL furthered stressed that it sought to intervene in the violent confiscation of its reporter’s camera after Saah was attacked by security forces.
VOL noted that they are becoming increasingly worried especially after hours of the incident at the Ministry, they had received several threats from employees of the Foreign Ministry.
Receiving the complaint, the Press Union of Liberia through its National Media Council communicated to the Ministry of Justice to have the matter handle.
Lofa, On December 18, 2022, Journalist Nyan Flomo, Jr. complained of being attacked by Lofa County Attorney,Atty. Luther Sumo during a county meet match between Lofa and Nimba Counties in Voinjama.
According to Flomo’s narrative, they have gone to provide coverage of the match and all Nimba journalists who have gone to cover the tournament for the people of Nimba.
Sumo parading the touchline like a patriot officer dress as an AFL personnel and he ordered us to leave, after we told him we were all journalist and were there to write the names of players for commentary on various radio stations and online television stations in Nimba.
Nyan Flomo, a dedicated reporter known for covering Nimba was beaten even with the presence of the Lofa Media Coordinator, Moses Garzeawu.
The local office of the Press Union of Liberia through its County Coordinator, Tokpa Tarnue, including other stakeholders mitigated the case and the PUL warned against it reoccurrence.