Political hooligans have assaulted three journalists in two days during their coverage of on-going voter registration for senatorial elections scheduled for December 8, 2020.
The Media Foundation for West Africa’s partner organisation in Liberia, Centre for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) reported that Omaska A Yallah, a reporter of The News newspaper, was assaulted in Cape Mount County on September 15, 2020. The journalist was reporting on a stand-off between locals and non-residents suspected to have been transported to register and vote in the County when the suspected mercenary voters pounced on him.
The attack by the disgruntled thugs left the journalists with an injury on his forehead. The attackers also seized the journalist’s mobile phone and recorder. CEMESP Executive Director, Malcolm Joseph, urged the authorities to take steps to forestall violence during the elections.
“We are therefore calling on the National Elections Commission and the Liberian National Police to proactively address elections violence ahead of the midterm senatorial election scheduled for December 8, 2020” Joseph said.
Political parties in Liberia are known to practice what is locally called “trucking” which involves transporting mercenary voters to constituencies or counties other than where they actually reside in order to change the electoral demography.
A day after this incident, a group of thugs suspected to be mercenary voters attacked and held hostage James S. Flomo of Spoon FM/TV and Nyantee Samuel Togba of Okay FM who were on a similar reporting mission in Bomi County.
The journalists were speaking to people and officials at a registration centre under cover. Unfortunately, a group of men suspected to have been trucked found out that they were journalists and pounced on them. The victims managed to flee from their assailants and took refuge in a nearby house. However, the thugs massed up in front of a house and threatened to burn it down if the journalists were not handed over.
After more than twenty minutes of negotiations between the raging thugs and the police who were alerted, the journalists were allowed out, but only after they agreed to delete all records that had taken of events at the registration centre.
“I am okay folks! Thanks to my CEO and the entire Management of Spoon FM/TV for the care. Thanks to 102 of LNP [Liberia National Police] and the police department of Bomi County for the security provided. … Thank you all for reaching out,” James S. Flomo posted on his Facebook page shortly after the release.
The MFWA strongly condemns the attacks on the three journalists and demands justice for the victims. The police in Bomi County must not treat the hostage taking drama as resolved and the chapter closed. They must arrest and prosecute the thugs. We also urge the police in Cape Mount County to investigate the assault on Omaska Yallah of The News and bring the perpetrators to book.