Paye-Layleh Raises Concerns over Assaulted Journalists -Intends Working with PUL, MICAT to Resolve Issues

A long-serving member and former official of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has started frantic conversations with the President of the Union, Mr. Charles B. Coffey, Jr., suggesting a joint effort and collaboration to try to get to the bottom of a wave of complaints and concerns that have been brought to the attention of the PUL leadership in recent times by some practicing journalists.

According to BBC Liberia Correspondent Jonathan Paye-Layleh, the issues include the one affecting reporter Franklin Doloquee of OK-FM, who has complained to the PUL leadership of alleged harassment by security personnel accompanying officials of the National Port Authority visiting the Ganta border months ago. Franklin complained that his working equipment and money were taken away in the alleged assault. The report has also complained lately against the Superintendent of Nimba County, Mr. Nelson Korquoi.

The consultative effort also concerns Reporter Salam Kaloko of an online TV platform who has complained of an alleged assault against him by officers of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) and his money and working equipment allegedly seized.

“Salam is currently finding it difficult to return to school in the absence of the money, he alleges, was taken from him,” Mr. Paye-Layleh stated, further citing a third incident that involved reporter Bobby Martin Tingban of Hott FM who has complained about an alleged police brutality against him involving officers of the Zone Five Police Sub-station in Paynesville.

“These may just be a few of what’s happening to media people in the country; and we need to look for ways to nip them in the bud. The PUL President, Mr. Coffey, and I have planned to meet with Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie and other influential media leaders, who necessarily may not be elected officials of the Union, to find a way around these very troubling complaints.

“There’s also a suggestion in our discussions that once efforts to get people accused by the reporters to make themselves available to an inquest have failed, we should convene a series of mass meetings of the entire membership of the Press Union to come up with a common position,” the veteran Liberian journalist enjoined.

He opined that journalists are making an enormous sacrifice to inform the public under extremely difficult circumstances; and while the public would not encourage them to take advantage of their profession and work to abuse the rights of others, it is obligatory to stand up for them if their rights are violated and their lives are placed under danger.

“These complaints come as the media community still awaits a response from the office of President George Weah regarding a petition presented to him more than two years ago calling for his direct action to end violence against media people in Liberia.

“This note comes to inform the media community that we are aware of the avalanche of complaints of alleged harassments and assaults against journalists and are not resting until the leadership of the PUL, with our assistance, can get the matters resolved.  Additionally, I am of the opinion that if by the time of celebrating International Press Freedom Day in May this year, these issues have remained sadly unresolved, we should avoid the usual big celebrations with a street parade and concentrate strictly on asking questions about these occurrences and finding solution to the situation,” Paye-Layleh stated emphatically.

“I believe there will be no point marching under the sounds of a band to celebrate Press Freedom Day when some of those in the march are grieving over unresolved issues and do not feel so free to practice. At this point, we cannot jump to conclusion, but clearly, delays in getting the matters resolved are quite troubling and worrying, to say the least. So I will again be reminding President Charles Coffey that we should not rest until those accused by media people of harassment and assaults respond to the allegations, the facts established, actions taken and the issues laid to rest,” Paye-Layleh noted.

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