The media in Liberia which has come under a barrage of physical and verbal attacks in recent times, particularly from state actors, has been plunged into further distress by the killing of one of its members.
Tyron A. Brown, a journalist with Super FM based in Monrovia, was killed in the early hours of April 16, 2018 while he was going to work. Eye witness accounts say a black jeep dropped Brown’s body at his residence around 3:00 A.M. on that fateful day and drove off. All his belongings including cellphone, modem and money were found intact, according to reports, discounting the possibility of robbery.
The killing comes at a particularly difficult moment for the media in Liberia which has come under siege over the past few months. On April 9, 2018, for instance, the offices of FrontPageAfrica (FPA), Liberia’s leading online newspaper, were shut and its staff bundled away by sheriffs of a Monrovia civil court. The action was in connection with an advertiser’s announcement published in the newspaper, which resulted in a US$1.8 million suit.
Prior to this suit, the Speaker of Liberia’s House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers, reportedly called armed guards to drive away two journalists who had gone to seek some information from him.
On March 22, President George Weah also added to the media sense of siege when he got irritated by a question from a senior journalist, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, and accused the journalist of undermining his work to promote human rights.
Earlier in February, a Member of Parliament, Munah Pelham-Youngblood, also physically assaulted a journalist. That attack followed the earlier flogging of two journalists by a police officer.
The killing of Brown thus adds to an already depressing press freedom atmosphere in Liberia. The MFWA therefore welcomes the Liberian government’s assurances of its commitment to fully investigate Brown’s murder and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Such killings by unidentified assailants, if not resolved, have the potential to spread fear not only among journalists but also the entire population. It is important to establish the motive for the killing and to bring the perpetrators to justice to restore calm and confidence in the state’s capacity to protect lives and property.
The MFWA commiserates with the family of the deceased journalist and the media fraternity in Liberia. We encourage Liberia’s journalists to show solidarity and remain resolute and focused on their mandate in these trying times.