Statement presenting the First Media Alert Report on the Tracking of Attacks to include threats against Journalists in Liberia by PUL President, Charles B. Coffey, Jr..
Media Executives, reporters, media workers, the general public- Ladies & Gentlemen
The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) is delighted to make public its first Media Alert Report as part of the Liberia Media Development being implemented by Internews with funding from USAID.
This report is compiled in sections representing two quarters. The first part of the report covers from April 10, 2017 to Monday, June 30, while the second portion covers from August to September 30 2017. The crux of releasing the reports is to expend on the naming and shaming policy of the Press Union of Liberia- a penalty usually employed against suppressors of free speech and of the press as well as journalists who transgress ethical standards.
Friends, colleagues, advocates of free expression and all lovers of liberty, during the last six months, the PUL has tracked and documented seven (7) attacks including threats against the media community in Liberia.
Here are the details of attacks and threats:
Joe K.S. Fineboy
1. The first attack was registered against Journalist Joe K.S. Fineboy, a freelance journalist whose works are frequently aired by Cool FM 91.9MHz located in Paynesville, outside of Monrovia. Cool FM is owned by a Liberian, Mr. Christopher Onanuga.
The complaint was filed against an executive of one of Liberia’s opposition political parties, Mr. Darrius Dillon of the Liberty Party, on Tuesday, April 29, 2017.
Journalist Fineboy had gone to the Party’s Headquarters in Congo Town on Tuesday, April 13, 2017, to seek information about the ‘fleet of vehicles’ being paraded by the Party when the incident occurred.
He reported that Liberty Party’s Deputy Secretary for Press and Propaganda, Mr. Klah Tumbay helped to get him out of the Party’s premises without further trouble.
During the periods under review, the Liberty Party was at the center of attention by both the media and civil society actors to provide information about its fleet of vehicles, as well as allegations that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the governing Unity Party was secretly supporting its Standard Bearer, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine, instead of her Party’s Standard bearer and current Liberian Vice President, Mr. Joseph Boakai.
Journalist Fineboy told the Press Union of Liberia that his mobile phone and recorder were smashed in the process. The case was turned over to Liberia’s first multi-stakeholders’ National Media Council for redress. Upon the receipt of the complaint, the National Media Council invited both parties for hearing in October. During hearing into the matter, the complainant, Journalist Fineboy requested the Council to halt further hearing into the matter, instead to mediate between him and the accused, Mr. Dillon, as a means of bringing about amicable resolution to the matter. According to Journalist Fineboy, his decision to beg for pardon stemmed from the fact that he did not act in accordance with the Liberian journalist Code of Ethics during his reportorial duty at the Liberty Party’s Headquarters. Following the mediation by the Council, both parties shook hands as a sign of peace.
NMC rules on Duoloquee-Liberty Party Case:
2. The Press Union of Liberia, through the National Media Council, on Tuesday, August 29, came out with its formal position/findings on a complaint filed against the LibertyParty and initially placed on file by the Media Alert Office as an attack on the media.
The Press Union of Liberia, through the National Media Council, on Tuesday, August 29, came out with its formal position/findings on a complaint filed against the Liberty Party on June 9, 2017 by Journalist Franklin Doloquee of the Liberia Broadcasting System and New Dawn Newspaper.
Mr. Doloquee, who is the Nimba County correspondent for the Liberia Broadcasting System alleged that he was manhandled and his recorder taken away by a security guard of the Party during its candidate nomination program in Ganta City, Nimba County in 2017.
The complaint was received, filed and subsequently looked into by the National Media Council.
The Media Alert Office of the PUL, charged with the responsibility of tracking, collating and analyzing issues of content and violations against journalists’ rights and free speech also filed the complaint and forwarded it to the NMC for immediate redress.
After investigation in which the both sides were invited, including independent accounts from witnesses who are also journalists, the NMC did not see any evidence in Mr. Doloquee’s allegations against the Liberty Party.
Besides, the NMC also noticed contradictions in journalist Duoloquee’s comments and noted further that Journalist Doloquee exaggerated his comments. The NMC therefore cleared the Liberty Party of the claims.
In fact the New Dawn Newspaper, of which Mr. Doloquee is also a reporter, was the first to have retracted its publication of wrong doing against the LP, after the matter had already been reported to the PUL.
The Paper, at the time said it was misled by Journalist Doloquee and therefore apologized to the Liberty Party.
The matter is now laid to rest, with journalists asked to abide by protocols in carrying out their professional duties.
The leadership of the Press Union of Liberia also urged journalists and those in other professions to respect each other’s rights.
Radio Joy Africa
3. The Press Union of Liberia’s Media Alert Office during the time under review was also able to track another attack on the existence of a community radio in Kakata, Margibi County. Radio Joy Africa was abruptly shut down after it was taken off a power-grid owned by Lone Star GSM Company.
The action was carried out by the Margibi County Chairmen of the All Liberian Party, Mr. Alfred Jerbo, allegedly on the orders of the Political leader of the ALP, Mr. Benoni W. Urey.
Mr. Urey, a businessman–turned politician, contested the Liberian Presidency on October 10, 2017 on the ticket of the All Liberian Party (ALP).
Mr. Jerbo is said to have also switched off and subsequently disconnected the station while a talk show was ongoing. The ALP’s action followed a talk show, which seemed not to be in its (party) interest.
Radio Joy Africa ArsonAttack
4. As if disconnecting the local radio from the tower of the Lone Star GSM Company did not affect the station’s operations, Radio Joy Africa suffered an arson attack on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. As reported by ELBC Radio and confirmed by a staff of the Station, Patrick Kollie, the community radio lost equipment, its only generator and other valuable properties during the fire incident.
Nation Times Newspaper
5. The Wednesday, August 2, 2017 publication of the Nation Times Newspaper, in its Volume 12,Edition 17,carried a communication from the Office of the Director of the Executive Protection Force(EPS), seeking the assistance of the Press Union of Liberia’s President, Mr. Charles B. Coffey, to “Escort the living body of Mr. Omasco Giago, Acting Managing Editor of the Nation Times and Mr. Octavian Williams, Publisher, to the Office of the EPS Director, Mr. Sam Gaye,” on Monday, July 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM for “questioning and self-explanatory assertions” for an article published by the periodical concerning alleged security threats on the life of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. It can be recalled that the Nation Times, in its Thursday, July 20, Volume 12 Edition 14, reported that President Sirleaf’s life was in danger , owing to the participation of her Security Advisor, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, Aid Decamp, General Jerry Hinneh and another security aid in the 2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections in Liberia.
Here is the caption of the story: President Sirleaf Risks Assassination…Chief Bodyguard Seeks Presidency---Fell Betrayed by Boss.”
While the PUL discourages the intimidation of the press, it is worth noting that the tabloid which is known to be associated with Mr. Octavin Williams is currently appearing on the newsstands with a misleading imprint. Contact numbers in the stamp of the paper are wrong in total disregard for the ethics of journalism which calls for full attribution at all times except in the case of extreme threats where professionals go pseudo.
Abraham Morris of the In Profile Daily Newspaper
6. During the period under review, the Media Alert Office was able to capture an issue bordering on threats against Reporter Abraham Morris of the In Profile Daily Newspaper.
The story, under the caption: “Lawsuit”- East International Threatens In Profile’s Reporter, was carried in the Paper’s Monday, July 31, 2017, Volume 9 Edition 169.
The In Profile, in the publication said its staff, Mr. Morris was doing a follow up on allegations by a civil society advocate, Martin K. Kollie that an alleged surrogate of the East International wanted to bribe him (Kollie) with $6,000 United Sates Dollars to stop his criticism against the company’s alleged dubious activities.
Besides, Journalist Morris was seeking clarifications from the Company about “controversies” surrounding a 59.9 Million United States Dollar Pre-financing Agreement recently passed by the Liberian Senate.
Here is a text allegedly sent to Reporter Morris by the General Manager of the East International Group Incorporated, Mr. J. Kelvin Buimah, as contained in the In Profile Daily’s Monday, July 31, 2017 Publication: “Continue sending more texts, we will meet and you will prove it in court.
Kanney Ziammo of Radio Gompa, Nimba County
6. Ending September for this report, The Heritage Newspaper, in its Thursday, October 5, 2017 Edition 3447, Volume 19 reported an attack on Journalist Kanney Ziammo of Radio Gompa, Nimba County.
Reporter Ziammo was brutalized by a member of the opposition Alternative National Congress, Metri Gono, along with other supporters of the ANC.
The ANC executive accused Journalist Ziammo’s ethnic group, (Gio) of being under-miners. The allegation was reportedly made during conversation between the two. But as reported by the paper, Journalist Ziammo out rightly rejected such claims against members of the Gio ethnic group. The situation led to the brutalization of the local journalist.
The monitoring of content across the media has been a difficult task in the last six months for a dedicated staff in the absence on monitoring mechanism, especially with the evolution of the social media. The public including some media practitioners themselves are posting things without taking into consideration its explosive nature. Some are posting profanity and anti-peace messages relative to the current political situation (2017 Presidential and Legislative Elections) in Liberia.
This report cannot conclude without the journalism community appreciating the sole funder of the Media Alert Office at the PUL, the American People and Government through their International Aid Agency (USAID).
Finally, this project is at the code of the protection of journalism in Liberia and will stay in the operations of the Press Union of Liberia and this leadership at the Union continue to source funding for its implementation.
We will continue to document people who find it rewarding to assault journalists- by during so democrats all over the world will shun them and boycott their qualities. Those who still feel that some journalists are not professional in their work, the way to proceed is to forward your grievances to the National Media Council and avoid physically attacking us.
Thank you very kindly and let’s continue to work for liberty everywhere in the world.
23 Mar 18 - Upsurge in Official Intimidation of Journalists