On 23 April 2022, the offices of Radio Kintoma FM, a community radio station in Voinjama, Lofa county, burned down, destroying the building and all the equipment inside. Although the reason the fire broke out is not clear, station manager Tokpa Tarnue, who spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), believes that it was an arson attack, either in response to a recent dispute between staff of the community radio and a local politician over a broadcast or the station’s reporting on female genital mutilation.
Radio station Radio Kintoma FM in #Liberia's Lofa county burns down to the ground. Station manager Tokpa Tarnue suspects foul play only because station relied on solar power and its generator was off when it caught fire reports @pressfreedom: https://t.co/qHr3FJyVSQ @TheMFWA— IFEX (@IFEX) May 11, 2022
Community radio station burned down
On 23 April 2022, the offices of Radio Kintoma FM, a community radio station in Voinjama, Lofa county, burned down, destroying the building and all the equipment inside. Although the reason the fire broke out is not clear, station manager Tokpa Tarnue, who spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), believes that it was an arson attack, either in response to a recent dispute between staff of the community radio and a local politician over a broadcast or the station’s reporting on female genital mutilation. According to Tarnue, the radio station relies mostly on solar power and its standby electric generator was switched off when the fire started. The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) called for a full-scale investigation into the incident while also claiming that another radio station in Lofa county - Radio Tamba-tiakor in Foya – had suffered an arson attack on 5th March 2022, which destroyed the radio station's only motorbike. Angela Quintel of CPJ commented:
“When a media outlet is destroyed under murky circumstances, it sends a chilling message. That is why it is important to ascertain what caused the fire and make those findings public.
Journalists intimidated, threatened, assaulted
On 29th June 2022, two police officers stopped journalists Emmanuel Kollie, who works at state broadcaster Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), and Amos P. Korzawu, reporter and video editor for Fortune TV Liberia, in Foya district, Lofa county, while on their way to report on a confrontation between supporters of the Unity Party and the Coalition for Democratic Change following senate elections in the county. The two officers demanded to know where the journalists were going, pulled out their guns and threatened to shoot them if they did not return to their hotel. Kollie was also reportedly slapped and punched by the police officers. According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the incident occurred despite Kollie and Korzawu having identified themselves as journalists. They returned to their hotel as they feared for their lives.
A day before this incident, on 28th June 2022, reporter for the New Republic newspaper, R. Joyclyn Wea, was threatened and insulted by presidential protocol chief Cleopatra Cummings at a court in Monrovia. Wea had taken a picture of Cummings, who was at the court in relation to an aggression charge. Cummings later stormed into a room specifically reserved for journalists and threatened and insulted the journalist while demanding the deletion of the picture.
#FixTheCountry protests: several protesters injured
On 26th July 2022 - Liberia's Independence Day - several anti-government protesters were injured, including two people necessitating hospital treatment, when they clashed with counter protesters. That day, the Student Unification Party (SUP), one of the biggest and oldest student political parties on University of Liberia campuses, organised anti-government protests in Monrovia, using the hashtag #FixTheCountry, to express the dissatisfaction with the way the country is being run and highlighting issues such as corruption, the poor quality of health and education services, poverty and other social ills. A group known as CDC - Council of Patriots (CDC-COP), tied to the ruling political alliance of President Weah, also took to the streets to counter the SUP protest, clashing with and injuring several anti-government protesters. The beating and torture of anti-government protester Christopher Walter Sisulu Sivili, who was also stripped naked, was streamed live on Facebook. Seven CDC-COP members and protesters were arrested on 2nd August 2022 and reportedly charged with attempt to commit murder and aggravated assault. The seven were released on a non-cash bond.
The incident was widely condemned, including by civil society actors in the country. President Weah publicly disowned the group on 2 August, saying "anyone or group that has my image on a banner in support of me and my government has to be peaceful, respectful and tolerant".