CEMESP Condemns Arrest of Sports Journalist

The Vice President for Operations (VPO) of Liberia Football Association (LFA) has ordered armed police officers dressed in the latest Liberia National Police’s (LNP) “turtle suit” to arrest INQUIRER Newspaper Sports Editor D. Webster Cassell.

On orders of VPO, Wilmot Smith, the police officers claimed journalist Cassell was under immediate arrest as a result of a complaint filed against him at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police.

The officers who could not state the charge that warrants the arrest, however, insisted that D. Webster Cassell, who is a former Secretary General of the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL), follow them to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police for questioning.

As Journalist Cassell demanded to know the charge, the officers said they could only disclose the offense he has committed until he had complied with the arrest by following them to the headquarters on of the Liberia National Police on Capitol Hills because according to them, they were operating on orders from VPO Smith.

Despite the intervention of the President of the Liberia Football Association, Mr Smith refused to abandon the “Operation Arrest Webster” campaign, insisting that his action is meant to drag the INQUIRER Sports Editor to jail until the following day.

The LFA Vice President’s outburst also extended to Prime FM sports reporter Michael Solomon whom he accused of “wrongfully discussing him on a live sports program.

“As the officers in arms arrived, he Mr. Smith approached me in anger, threatening that he will deal with me for discussing him on radio without contacting him. I insisted that everything I said about him was factual and I even asked him if he, himself listened but he replied that someone told him that I was discussing him” said Michael Solomon.

Solomon also alleged that one of the two police officers ordered him to delete pictures he had taken as they attempted to arrest his colleague Webster Cassell. Upon his refusal, he said, one of the officers “forcefully” got hold of his phone and deleted the pictures.

The situation later came under control following the intervention of the legal representative of the Liberia Football Association Cllr. Joseph Kollie, who held a side discussion with the police officers.

The action of Mr. Smith was prompted by a June 10 publication in the Inquirer Newspaper in which Journalist Webster Cassell reported a story of him allegedly assaulting a Liberian referee. Upon publication of the story, he threatened legal action against the INQUIRER Sports Editor for what
he claimed as ‘blackmailing him.’

The Press Union of Liberia and the Liberia Football Association have not spoken to Monday’s incident at the ATS but, the President of World Girls female football club- Rochell Woodson, has condemned the action of the LFA’S VPO.

Madam Woodson believes Smith’s action undermines the spirit and intent
of the game of football noting that “the VPO’s action also shows the lack of maturity on the
part of an LFA official. It clearly demonstrates his lack of transparency as a sports executive, and exposes his intend to crackdown on the sporting press,” Rochell intimated.

The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) has out rightly condemned the action by Liberian Football Vice President Wilmot Smith.
CEMESP’s Executive Director, Malcolm Joseph, views the attempted arrest of Journalist Cassell on the orders of the LFA Veep as an attack on press freedom and a ploy designed by him to silence the Liberia Sporting press.

Mr Joseph therefore calls on the Executive Committee of the Liberia Football Association and the leadership of the Liberia National police to speedily investigate the matter and make findings public.

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