MONROVIA—The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has detested the increasing instances of state security forces flogging journalists in the discharge of its duties as a calculated plan to intimidate and harass the independent media, and deter them from reporting occurrences in our society. The Press Union of Liberia says no serious government which believes in the rule of law would countenance any spur of the minute and barbaric response like public flogging and assault for anyone, least to mention a journalist – regardless of the alleged offense committed.
The PUL’s statement comes in the wake of repeated, unsubstantiated and ruthless beating of journalists by police officers at various scenes around the country. The Press Union of Liberia protested 2 instances within the last one week, where journalists were harassed and assaulted as they carried out their work.
In the first instance, Journalists Leila Gbati of the Women Voices Newspaper and Alloycious David of The News Newspapers were ruthlessly beaten on Tuesday, 19 August 2015 by Police Support Unit officers, as they reported an event where private schools’ teachers converged at the Foreign Ministry to draw President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s attention to delays in the payments of their Ebola Hardship benefits.
At this public gathering, reporter Leila Gbati was whipped while photographing scenes of the teachers’ protest, leading to the loss of her camera and wounds on her upper right body, while Journalists Alloycious David was roughed up and assaulted at the same event. Likewise, an officer of the Liberia National Police only identified as Sonkalay, assaulted Journalists Emmanuel Degleh and Joseph B. Sackie by while attending a press conference at the Kakata, Margibi Police Detachment.
This new wave of flogging of journalists suggests to the Union that there is a calculated attempt to threaten the journalists, and limit space for peaceful discourses. The Press Union of Liberia Acting President Jallah Grayfield said unlawful flogging is a barbaric act that has no place in any democratic society. Mr. Grayfield said “Journalists are not whipping dogs, and stressed that the Journalists Union is considering all legal approaches to curb the despicable conduct of state security officers against journalists in Liberia.”