Reporters Without Borders condemns the use of violence by members of the national police and United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) against several journalists, including Daylue Goah of the privately-owned daily New Democrat and Evans Ballah of Public Agenda, during a student demonstration yesterday. Goah was seriously injured.
“Such police brutality against journalists is disgraceful and unacceptable,” the press freedom organisation said. “The police and UNMIL peacekeepers clearly lost control of the situation and used disproportionate violence. We are amazed by the clear lack of professionalism and self-control displayed by troops acting under UN authority. Everything must be done to shed light on these incidents and on the deliberate use of violence against the press, and those responsible must be punished.”
Goah and Ballah were sent by their newspapers to cover a student demonstration against conditions on the University of Liberia campus, which degenerated into rioting on the main streets of the capital not far from the presidential palace and which elicited a forceful intervention by the security forces.
The two journalists were attacked by members of a joint Liberian National Police and UNMIL unit, who tore up their ID cards and forced them to delete the photos from their digital cameras. Witnesses said Goah was beaten on the neck and arms with batons and rifle butts by a member of the Special Security Service (which protects the president) and a Nigerian peacekeeper.
He managed to escape and tried to get another soldier to protect him. Instead the two soldiers resumed beating him until he lost consciousness. Civilians took him to a hospital, where he is reportedly in a serious condition and unable to talk.
According to Liberian press reports, several other journalists were also beaten by the police and UNMIL.