Prior to, during and after the Senate elections, which took place on 8th December 2020, several journalists were subject to assaults, harassment and threats. The mid-term elections, to elect 15 senators, took place in Liberia together with a referendum on eight proposed constitutional changes, including legalising dual citizenship and shortening terms of presidents and lawmakers.
#Liberia: Journalists assaulted while covering senate election, sports tournament— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) March 3, 2021
• Henry Bobo Gboluma was beaten and threatened with death on December 14, 2020
• Julius Nimely Konton was pushed, slapped, and threatened on January 26, 2021 https://t.co/OAxFnM3chZ
Mid-term elections: journalists assaulted, threatened
Prior to, during and after the Senate elections, which took place on 8th December 2020, several journalists were subjected to assaults, harassment and threats. The mid-term elections, to elect 15 senators, took place in Liberia together with a referendum on eight proposed constitutional changes, including legalising dual citizenship and shortening the terms of presidents and lawmakers. The referendum has been subject to controversy as critics argue that changing the constitution could open the way for President Weah to run for terms beyond the constitutional two-term limit.
During festive month of December, journalist Gloria Tamba forced to go into hiding after receiving threats for her coverage of protests calling for investigations into the disappearances of people allegedly connected to Liberian businessman: https://t.co/0xVfiJPhrL #IFEXgender— IFEX (@IFEX) January 3, 2021
Journalists assaulted, subjected to threats
Sports journalist and founder of Fortune TV Liberia Julius Nimely Konton was physically assaulted by two officers of the Police Emergency Response Unit on 24th January 2021 when he tried to enter the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Paynesville, Monrovia, to cover the quarterfinals of the National County Sports Meet (NCSM). The incident was condemned by the Sports Writers' Association of Liberia (SWAL).
Spoon FM journalist Gloria Tamba was subjected to threats issued by unidentified individuals after she covered protests at the St. Moses Funeral Parlour in the township of Gardnersville calling for an investigation into the disappearance of three men, who were recently hired by the owner of the funeral parlour. According to CPJ, who spoke with the journalist, two unidentified individuals drove up to Tamba on 22nd October 2020 in Paynesville, showed her a picture of herself and warned her that 'she would disappear' if she continued covering the protests. Tamba's neighbours also alerted Tamba that two men were looking for the journalist, claiming that they wanted Tamba to write a report for them. Tamba feared for her life and went into hiding as a result.
Press freedom organisation Reporters without Borders (RSF) recorded three incidents of physical assault and six cases of intimidation and death threats against journalists between the start of October and mid December 2020. The group said that at least nine journalists had received death threats, including talk show host T-Max Jlateh of Sky FM who hosts the show '50-50'. Assane Diagne of RSF commented:
"Assaults, intimidation and death threats: such violations of press freedom have been growing to general indifference since George Weah took office in 2018. The decriminalisation of press offences is a major step forward, but it is not acceptable that journalists should continue to be verbally or physically abused in this way."
Ministry of Information threatens radio station over broadcasting show
On 17th January 2021, the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT) warned privately-owned radio station Radio Bushrod (D-15 FM) not to broadcast the 'Costa Show' by radio host Henry P. Costa, who resides in the United States, claiming that Costa is a 'fugitive' from justice and 'cannot host radio programmes meant to communicate to a Liberian audience while in the United States'. It further threatened to revoke the licences and permits of 'any station, including D15, which continues on this path in utter violation of the laws of Liberia'. In a statement, the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) said this was the third action by the Weah administration to shut down Costa, who is considered as a government critic, and that Costa has yet to be charged with a crime in any court. As reported previously on the Monitor, Costa's Roots FM was shut down on 10th October 2019 reportedly for having broadcast on a frequency for which the station had no licence, and for inciting violence. Roots FM was attacked and vandalised on two occasions in 2019 prior to its shutdown.