Liberia: Security officers brutally assault a journalist with Radio Fuamah

More than three weeks after journalist Kesselle Sumo, was brutally assaulted, none of his perpetrators have been brought to book. The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the violent attack on Sumo and calls on the Liberian authorities to bring the perpetrators to book.

On March 11, 2024, two officers of the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) and a magistrate’s court sheriff, assaulted and arrested Sumo who works with the privately owned Radio Fuamah in the Bong Mine Community. According to a video reviewed by the MFWA and Sumo’s account of the incident, the officers punched him repeatedly and sprayed tear gas in his left eye, leaving him unconscious.

The officers denied Sumo’s request to speak to his lawyer when they arrested him. The officers took Sumo to the local magistrate court, where a judge instructed that he be taken to hospital. He was hospitalised until March 12, 2024.

According to LDEA spokesperson, Michael Jipply, Sumo’s injuries resulted from his refusal to comply with law enforcement instructions, which led to a tense situation. He emphasised that such behaviour was not sanctioned by the LDEA, and they apologised for the altercation.

However, the journalist told the MFWA that he did not refuse to follow due process as the spokesman claimed, but only asked to be allowed to call his lawyer and some family members.

“In the process, I was manhandled, unmercifully brutalized, violated and taken to the court and subsequently rushed to the Bong mines hospital for facial laceration, profuse bleeding and bodily injuries” Sumo added.

Sumo was arrested following a court warrant on charges of criminal coercion under Section 14.27 of the penal code and interference with judicial matters. The charges stemmed from a March 7, 2024 broadcast by Sumo in which he alleged that a magistrate, Lynda M. Sulunteh, unjustly detained two community leaders. The journalist reported to the local magistrate court on March 8 after officials came to his office and summoned him.

Sumo reported the incident to the police, but they declined to investigate, citing ongoing court proceedings.

The Press Union of Liberia condemned the violent act committed against the journalist, describing it as an insult to justice and the rule of law.

It is concerning that the perpetrators of this brutal assault on journalist Sumo have not been brought to book. It is the opinion of the MFWA that an assault on a journalist for reporting on alleged human rights violations is a serious violation that should not be overlooked, particularly when the perpetrators are law enforcement officers entrusted with public safety. Liberian authorities must ensure accountability of those responsible for the assault on the journalist, and put an end to any legal actions against him.

Share this story!

Related Stories

More On Liberia

Read more from Liberia