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Liberia: Two journalists detained briefly for taking photographs

 - Saturday 21 June 2008.

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Two Liberian journalists working for the "New Democrat" newspaper were arrested and detained for several hours on 16 June 2008 by officers of the Liberia National Police in Monrovia.

According to the police, news editor Othello Garblah and staff writer Festus Porque were arrested at the request of the Monrovia Transit Authority for "unprofessional photography."

The two journalists had gone to the premises of the Monrovia Transit Authority, a public transport company, following a tip-off that some of the buses being managed by the entity were down due to gross mismanagement.

Upon arrival, the journalists identified themselves to the security guards assigned at the compound and were allowed in. They then asked to talk to the management of the entity but were told that none of the senior managers was present. It was after being told that none of the managers was present that they decided to take photographs of some of the out-of-use buses parked in the compound. This apparently infuriated the security guards, who arrested them for allegedly trespassing and called in the national police from the nearby depot.

Upon arrival at the scene, the police took the two journalists to their depot and charged them with the crime of "unprofessional photography." (The journalists were reportedly obliged to destroy their photographs.)

However, the journalists were released the same day after spending several hours in detention.

CEMESP views the detention of the two journalists while they were trying to corroborate the allegations of transit mismanagement with photographs as an attempt to impede their work and deny the public information which they have a right to know.

CEMESP believes that the security guards’ allegations of trespassing are groundless for two reasons: the facility of the Monrovia Transit Authority, being a public entity, should be accessible to the public, including journalists; as well, the guards themselves allowed the journalists in, and only interfered when they began taking photographs.

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