Monrovia – Following blatant frequent denials by the government of Liberia that no journalist has been manhandled by state security, FrontPage Africa has obtained a letter in which the Executive Protection Services admits that it is investigating an agent for “over-reaction,” after the officer allegedly battered a reporter. The letter under the signature of EPS Director Trokon Roberts expressed regret for the situation and promised to take appropriate action against the agent of the elite presidential guard.
“The EPS sincerely regrets the situation and will carry out the appropriate disciplinary actions in keeping with its standard operating procedure against the agent involve,” the letter stated. In recently, months, a number of journalists have been assaulted and or detained by agents of the EPS while they were providing coverage of a protest staged on Tuesday, March 3, in Monrovia by war crimes advocates led by Mr. Emmanuel Savice. The group is calling for the establishment of an Economic and War Crimes court in the country.
Among the journalists who were flogged or manhandled was Journalist Salam Kolako of Magic TV. Reporter Kolako was reportedly beaten by the EPA officer and his belongings were taken from the home.
The EPS, in its communication to the PUL, admitted that the reporter bag was taken away from him. “The orange and black-color bag in question along with its content was turned over the same day to Deputy Inspector General for Operations of the Liberia National Police Col. Mavin Sackor (unit 102) for safety,” the letter stated. Another journalist, Aryee Davis of Truth FM was also one of the victims of the EPS brutality.
Journalist Davis was reportedly detained and subsequently released following the intervention of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). The EPS communication was in response to a letter of complaint from the PUL and it comes days after several officials of government including the Ministry of Information denied any brutality against journalists.
Presidential Press Secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh also told a local media talk show, ‘The OK morning rush’ last Wednesday that no journalist was attacked and he challenged officials of the PUL to provide evidence of attack against its members. Also, Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon denied that there was no evidence that journalists were brutalized by state security personnel.
There have been repeated calls for the PUL to take action against the security sector – mainly the EPS and the police – for the continued harassment of journalists. This prompted a meeting on Monday, March 9 when members of the PUL unanimously agreed in a four-count resolution to address the increasing wave of attacks against journalists in the country.
As part of the decision, members of the Union have unanimously agreed to hold a peaceful assembly on Thursday, March 11. The peaceful protest is expected to call the attention of the government and the international community to the unabated wave of attacks against Journalists in Liberia.
The meeting, which was attended by over 100 members of the Union and auxiliary organizations, also witnessed a decision to prepare a legal team and investigators for immediate investigation and legal actions against perpetrators of brutality against journalists. The highest decision-making body of the Press Union of Liberia also mandated the leadership to be opened to dialogue with the government for a possible security-media dialogue to end the brutalization of journalists and media workers.
The Union members also mandated the leadership to allow the EPS to continue its ongoing investigation into the brutality meted against reporters. Shortly after the meeting, the EPS quickly admitted in their letter sent to the union and promised that action will be taken against the EPS agent.
Though the EPS admittance did not disclose the name of the EPS agent accused of flogging the journalist, the agent is seen in video footage manhandling the journalist is reportedly known as “Accident Jay,” who had joined the EPS upon the ascendency of the Weah-led government. FPA has also learned that the EPS agent was a commercial bike rider before he was enlisted in the EPS and that he was given the nickname because he was involved in frequent reckless motorcycle accidents.
The manhandling of journalists has claimed the attention of many including the president of the PUL Charles Coffey, who described the action of state security officers as undermining not only the free press but the democracy of the country. Mr. Coffey had earlier said that the attacks on journalists are reaching an alarming proportion and now requires the timely intervention of the Liberian government.
It can be recalled that Christopher Walker, Sports Editor of FrontPage Africa newspaper, was also brutalized while he was covering the National County Sports Meet at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex. He explained that some of his belongings, including his camera and phone, were damaged as well as his wallet, containing US$250 USD and L$1000 were taken away from him. An investigation by the Police following a complaint by FPA about the manhandling of Journalist Walker has been at a snail pace. Edwin Genoway/FPA
Main Photo: Trokon Roberts, EPS, Liberian Observer