The Press Union of Liberia Protests Against Attacks on Two Journalists

Statement from the Press Union of Liberia (PUL)

Monrovia, Liberia

The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) says its attention has been drawn to two seperate incidents of attack and threats against journalist Teah Doegmah of the Talking Drum Studio and Moses Sonkarlay of the Liberia Communications Network, reportedly by two public officials.

Journalist Teah Doegmah, Project Officer of the Talking Drum Studio said he was manhandled and detained on orders of Assistant Police Director for Operations, Col. Leo Jerbo.

Mr. Doegmah said the incident took placed at the Aminata Filing station on the Bushrod Island on May 14 - National Unificiation Day. He said that while waiting to be served gasoline, Col. Jerbo's car arrived on the sence and demanded that Doegmah remove his vehicle.

According to Mr. Doegmah, when he replied that he was waiting to be served, Col. Jerbo shouted back at him that he was rude - ordering his bodyguards to arrest and take the journalist to the National Police Headquarters where he was detained for several hours and later released.

The Union views the action of Col. Jerbo as an abuse of power and and a flagrant violation of the rights of the journalist.

The PUL has meanwhile written Police Director Paul Mulbah, demanding a probe into the incident to avoid a recurrence of this arbitrary action on the part of a senior law enforcement officer.

The Union says Col. Jerbo's action has the propensity to further blur the already tainted image of the law enforcement officers in the country.

For his part, Liberia Communictions Network (LCN) News Director Moses Sonkarley has complained of threats on his life by Defense Minister Daniel Chea.

According to journalist Sonkarley, the threats followed his refusal to authorize the broadcast of a press release reportedly issued by Minister Chea in connection with circumstances surrounding the death of former Sierra Leonean rebel commander Sam Bockarie.

Journalist Sonkarlay said the release was unsigned and did not carry the letterhead of the National Defense Ministry.

Mr. Sonkarlay said his decision not to approve the release for broadcast was strictly professional and done with no malice.

The LCN News Director said Minister Chea threatened to get even with him, and had even gone to the extent of asking for his residence.

The PUL has written the minister asking for an audience with him about these troubling developments.

Meanwhile, the Union views these threats as worrisome and hopes that the proposed meeting with the Defense Minister would resolve the matter.

Tom Winston Monboe