The Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) today has called on authorities in Liberia to immediately and unconditionally release a journalist detained since July 2, 2014.
According to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) a FAJ affiliate, journalist Octavin Williams, Publisher of the Nation Times newspaper is being continuously and unjustified detained by authorities of the Liberia National Police.
Deputy Police Inspector General Colonel Abraham Kromah on Wednesday 2 July ordered the arrest and subsequent detention of the journalist for what was initially referred to as “driving a vehicle with an American license plate”. Subsequent claims against journalist Williams have been cited as disorderly conduct, driving an undocumented vehicle and simple assault.
“Authorities must release immediately our colleague without laying charges against him,” Mohamed Garba, FAJ President said. Garba joins PUL President Abdullai Kamara to describe Octavin’s arrest as a classic act of harassment, geared towards driving the journalist into self-censorship.
The PUL said police authorities were dragging their feet and acting intentionally to keep the journalist in detention, and described their engagements as being marred by inconsistencies that nearly run the patience of the PUL leadership and lawyers.
The PUL said it is fully aware of an earlier complaint filed with it against Col. Abraham Kromah by journalist Williams in which the journalist accused him of threatening his life and going after him.
The PUL said the arrest comes just after it had gotten assurances from Col. Kromah that he was willing to appear for a hearing at the PUL for a probe into the complaint, pending an official communication. “We now see the reality in the complaint filed by the journalist, and we believe that the unprovoked harassment, tyrannical arrest and unacceptable detention of journalist Williams as going beyond the conflicting reasons stated by the police,” PUL Secretary General D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh said.
The PUL has therefore called on the Police authorities to return to the status quo of the rule of law to release the journalist if it should survive a mass media action in the country.
For more information, please contact FAJ Secretariat: +221 33 867 95 86/87
The FAJ represents 50,000 journalists in Africa