The first incident was during a football match on 24 January, when police ordered FrontPage Africa sports editor Christopher C. Walker to leave the press stand although he was displaying press accreditation and was wearing a press vest. When he refused, at least four officers in riot gear dragged him from the stand and gave him a severe beating, tearing his clothes.
“The treatment inflicted on Christopher Walker is incomprehensible, especially as he had press accreditation,” said Assane Diagne, the head of RSF’s West Africa office. “The authorities must not only punish those responsible for the violence but also ensure that the police are better trained, so that journalists are able to work.”
The FrontPage Africa management said it has complained to Liberia’s police inspector general and the justice minister, asking them to ensure that the brutality against journalists stops.
Walker was singled out among the dozens of journalists in the press stand despite having had no previous run-in with police. Liberia’s leading investigative newspaper, FrontPage Africa is well known for publishing articles that annoy the authorities.
In the second incident, on 26 January, OK FM radio reporter Zenu Miller was attacked by members of the presidential guard in their commander’s presence. Press Union of Liberia vice-president Daniel Nyakonah told RSF that Miller was arrested in the official stand at the end of the match for unexplained reasons.
Miller, who had to be hospitalized after his arrest, expressed support for his FrontPage Africa colleague in a Facebook post the same day.
Attacks against journalists and media have become common in Liberia and are going unpunished. In 2019, several privately-owned radio stations were ransacked and journalists were roughed up. Police closed one of these radio stations, Roots FM, in a heavy-handed raid in response to a court order.
Liberia is ranked 93rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.