PUL Documents Death Threats, Floggings, Hate Speech -Journalists and the Ugly Side of the Midterm Senatorial Elections

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The post-election Weekly Media Alert of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) paints an ugly picture of Liberia, where Liberian journalists are threatened and attacked by state actors and supporters of politicians and unknown persons. The jaw-dropping report also highlights the dangerous role that Freedom FM and its chief commentator Sekou Sheriff played in whipping up tribal sentiments reminiscent of the civil war when the country was divided along tribal and sectional lines.

Covering the period between October to December 2020, the PUL Weekly Media Alert Report contains seven cases of attacks and four threats reportedly by supporters of Political Parties, the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency and a National Elections Commission (NEC) Supervisor in Montserrado County, one hate Speech and one malicious declaration of false results by Freedom FM.

Attacks

According to the Alert, on Monday, December 7, 2020, Journalist Mustapha Dakota,a reporter of Radio Hard Work in Grand Cape Mount County was attacked and injured in the political violence in Porkpar, Grand Cape Mount County between supporters of the CDC candidate Victor Watson and the Candidate of the CPP.

“Journalist Dakota was in the area as a Journalist covering the electoral process when the violence brook out leaving with injury and was taken the nearby clinic for medication. The Political violence in question led to the injury of several others with two cars belonging to the CPP candidate in Grand Cape Mount set ablaze,” the Alert stated.

Also, on Tuesday, 8th December 2020, Journalist Shammah Dorbor of United Methodist Radio (ELUM 98.7 FM) located on the Compound of the Methodist Church on 12th Street, was allegedly attacked by Lee Johnson of National Elections Commission (Poll worker), a Supervisor of District # 9, Prescient Code # 30404 Polling Place #4.

“Supervisor Johnson reportedly ordered his men to brutalized Journalist Dorbor leaving him with severe pains in the neck and head with his camera taken away. According to our investigation, Journalist Dorbor was on his reportorial duties when he bombs into confusion between the NEC Supervisor Johnson and a Voter on the usage of noise mask during polling.

“Journalist Dorbor decided to intervene by appealing and asking Supervisor Johnson to allowed the individual to vote; indicating that the NEC had said that people would vote with or without nose mask. The information infuriated the Poll Worker who instructed his men to brutalize journalist Dorbor, the Liberia National Police had to swiftly intervene,” the Alert claimed.

The Alert also reports that on Tuesday Dec, 8, 2020, Journalist Edwin Genoway of FrontPage Africa Newspaper was attacked by some unknown men in District # 9 Montserrado County at the God of Mercy polling center. According to Journalist Genoway, the men were in an unidentified white pickup. They chased him from the polling center where he had gone live on Facebook.

“On Wednesday December 9, 2020, Journalist Eric Opa Doue, ELBC Rivercess County Correspondent was reportedly slapped by one LDEA Officer and his phone taken away when he was live streaming for Grain Coast TV. Joint Security Officers returning from their elections duties had stopped at Yarpah Town, Rivercess and collected some goods including gasoline, cigarettes and other items from traders in the area; the journalist licenses zoomed them and they became enraged. The goods were put in their truck headed for Monrovia. The business people then trooped to the Yarpah Town Police Station to inform the detachment seizure of their goods. Journalist    Doue was beaten while covering the attempt by the traders to prevent illegal seizure of the goods through the police commander in the area,” the Alert claimed.

Also on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, Christopher Sellee, a presenter on Truth FM during an Elections Day broadcast allowed a poll watcher to call on live radio crying while making a point that they (CPP members) were being attacked and thrown out of a polling place on the S.D. Cooper Road. Truth FM is owned by Liberty Party Stalwart, Musa Bility. The Party is a member of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), the Alert claimed.

“On Sunday, December 13, 2020, Journalist James Making Suah of Voice of Grand Kru 98.1 FM was attacked by supporters of Hon. Nathaniel N. Bahway and Nimene H.T. Bartekwa. Journalist Suah was severely flogged upon the instruction of the two political leaders. The journalist was covering tallying at the Grand Election Tally Center in Barclayville on live television (Grand Kru TV). Rival campaigns were protesting; calling on the NEC local office to release the result of the election speedily. Suah told the Press Union of Liberia Alert Office that he lost a cell phone value at US$450 use for live streaming,” the PUL Alert stated.

On Sunday, December 13, 2020, Journalists Christopher Kumeh and Emmanuel Koffa of  Radio Anteehna and Voice of Grand Kru were flogged and their equipment damaged by angry supporters of Candidates Alfred T. Segbe, Nimene Batekwa and Nathaniel Zoe Baway.

The Journalists were covering their supporters protest at the Election Magistrate office in Baclayville, Grand Kru County. Supporters were alleging election fraud. Chris Kumeh and Emmanuel Koffa are seeking medical care at the Grand Kru Health Center,” the Alert stated.

Threats

According to the PUL Media Alert, on Monday, December 7, 2020, Journalist Obediah Johnson of FrontPage Africa was threatened and chased in Brewerville, Montserrado County while covering the Trucking of voters from Montserrado to Bomi County to vote at night.

Obediah ran forcefully to safety escaping the brutality of the gang of commercial voters.

On Friday, December 11, 2020, it was reported that Journalist Henscin Dehgar posted on his Facebook Page that he had been publicly threatened by one Jeddiah Flahn Jr. because of his stands on Sekou Sheriff recent broadcast.

“Sekou Sheriff is notorious for spewing out combustible or inflammatory messages of hate during his broadcast. Sheriff in a post-election day broadcast made up results and polling places in a propagandistic way to project the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) candidate favorably. He most noticeably announced his result from a school called “Grandma Public School”. A day before polling, Sheriff and his show urged people he labeled native to show up and vote “native brothers”, Rep. Thomas Fallah and Saah Fokoh. He said Dillion and others from CPP were “Congue People”. The Press Union of Liberia condemned the utterances and all others under performance of journalists as not only reckless but an attack on the successes of the Liberian Democracy,” the Alert stated, noting that

Sekou Sheriff’s Membership with the Press Union of Liberia has long been expelled because of his unprofessional deportment.

It was reported that the National Election Commission (NEC), Margibi County Magistrate, Ernest K. MCcay, received threat on his life based on a CLASSIC FM Report. The Radio Station told its audience that staffers at the local NEC Office were conducting secret elections, intended to overturn the Dec 8/2020 elections result. MCcay told the PUL Alert Office, the broadcast attracted residents of Kakata City to troop at the NEC Kakata Headquarters. The crowd grew and a man MCcay identified as O.J. Morris, Unity Party,  Margibi Secretary General and supporter of the People Unification Party Senatorial Candidate, James Emmanuel Nuquay threatened to killed him. Officers of the Liberia National Police promptly deployed additional troop and aborted the increasing pressure.

MCcay furthered that Classic FM Manager Emmanuel Degleh was invited by LNP officer to the NEC Kakata headquarters and later assured that he-Degleh was returning to his Classic FM and inform the public that the information was false and misleading. Meanwhile, Classic FM Station Manager Emmanuel Degleh issued a apology to Magistrate MCcay for the unethical and unprofessional practice of the Journalist of Classic FM, the Alert stated.

The Alert also claimed that Journalist Rita Jlogbe, a reporter with LUX FM, was threatened on Social Media (FACEBOOK) for her coverage of the Special Senatorial Election. Jlogbe was reading results posted by the National Election Commission, doing photographs of the results in addition to quizzes she ran on the observance of COVID-19 Protocols, the presence of poll watchers (political & civil society) and journalists’ coverage of the polls. Rita’s groundbreaking coverage also witnessed her posting the photos of all the polling places she visited. One of her posts attracted a man identified as Eric Weah. Weah commented on her Facebook account “Stop the fake news! Or you shall bear the consequence of your action”. He continued: “your results are fake! You are not a Journalist.” “Be professional and factual. A hint to a wise”, he concluded.

Hate Speech

On Monday, December 7, 2020, Freedom FM Journalist Sekou Sherriff was on his station preaching hate including the Congue and Native divide while encouraging Liberians to vote for the ruling party candidate Thomas Fallah in the Senatorial election.

The hate speeches by Journalist Sheriff of Freedom FM amounted to incitement which has the ability to return Liberia to chaos and confusion in the wake of tension in the electoral process.

“This election is about the Congue and Native, don’t vote them, the Congue people put themselves together to defeat us the native people, the Congue people don’t want the native people to succeed, so they are bringing someone to destroy the development of your native president” said Sheriff on Freedom FM.

“Over 200,000 Liberians died from the country’s fourteen years civil war which was triggered by the long standing Congue and Native divide,” the Alert warned.

Radio Declarations

On Election Night, Political Activist, Henry Costa of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) presented Sen. Darius Dillon, Sen. Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence and Rep. Prince Moye of Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Bong Counties winners of their elections early on. Costa fed by host of CPP members and journalists read results until Wednesday, 9th December 2020. The broadcast taunted the CPP’s political opponent, mainly the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC); Costa and his co-hosts laughed through the night as Monrovia listened. The broadcast was not conflict sensitive. It played a lot into others’ emotions while being emphatic about the CPP’s electoral successes in the absence of an official NEC pronouncement. This edition of the Costa Show was relayed on Sky FM and D-15 Radio. D-15 Radio is owned by Sen. Nyonblee Kangar Lawrence of the CPP, the report stated.

“On Wednesday, December 9, 2020, Journalist Sekou Sheriff of Freedom FM broadcast announcing and declaring Thomas Fallah as the winner of the 2020 Special Senatorial Election in Montserrado County. He also urged partisans of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change to assemble at the Headquarters of the party in Congo Town. Sheriff works for Freedom FM owned by the Deputy Director for Operation of the National Security Agency (NSA), Sam Sayor. A former spokesman of the Government, Eugene Nagbe once declared the radio the best in the country,” the Alert stated.

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