Liberia Alert: Journalist arrested under controversial circumstances

The MFWA’s partner organisation in Liberia, Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP) has described the arrest and detention of Octavian Williams, a journalist and publisher of the Nation Times newspaper as an unwarranted calculated ploy to clamp down on critical views.

Williams was reportedly arrested by the Deputy Police Director for Operations, Colonel Abraham Kromah, for driving with a foreign license plate. The police also accused Williams of a traffic offense and disorderly conduct.

However this has been seen as a dubious circumstance to settle the score for critical publications about the president’s family.

According to CEMESP, the arrest of Williams follows a series of publications by the journalist in which he alleged that Robert Sirleaf, son and senior advisor of the president Helen Johnson Sirleaf, is an American citizen.

Williams was reportedly called to the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) a few weeks ago to answer questions surrounding a publication that indicted the president’s family of looting state coffers.

He was threatened with forfeiture of license for failure to regularize his status to operate a newspaper.

Meanwhile, media analysts in the country see the arrest and subsequent detention of Williams as a means of settling scores with the journalist. It has been seen as a behind-the-scenes action of state functionaries denying bail, as the journalist has not been fully charged. Press Union of Liberia President K. Abubullai Kamara says they are negotiating and would come out with a statement soon.

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