CPJ calls on Liberia authorities to investigate assault and arrest of journalist News
blk24ga, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
CPJ calls on Liberia authorities to investigate assault and arrest of journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Friday called on Liberian authorities to investigate the physical assault and violent arrest of Liberia journalist Kesselee Sumo on March 11 and to drop the charges against him.

Sumo hosts a daily radio talk show from the Bong Mine Community in Liberia. A few days before his arrest, on March 7, he had reported on an alleged illegal detention of local community leaders by a magistrate, Sulonteh. Sumo said officials came to his workplace a day later and summoned him to court, where he claims he was told that Sulonteh demanded money as “compensation” for his report. After he left without meeting her, the CPJ stated he was charged with “interference with judicial matters” and “criminal coercion,” which includes defamation under section 14.27 of the Liberia penal code. The Press Union of Liberia blamed Sulonteh for authorizing Sumo’s arrest.

The CPJ asked Sulonteh for comment, but she “declined to answer CPJ’s questions, saying that she is ‘not answerable to CPJ.'” She also stated, “We do not have journalists in Liberia” and “[w]hat we have are [a] bunch of liars and unprofessionals.” Liberian authorities commented that the officials assaulted Sumo “because of his refusal to properly adhere to law enforcement instructions” and because he “resisted coming with them.”

The CPJ is a journalist rights organization that reports on threats to, attacks on, and detention of journalists around the world.

In 2023, Liberia ranked 66 out of 180 on the Press Freedom Index, up from 75 in 2022 and 98 in 2021. But a higher rank does not always mean a better performance; Liberia’s index dropped to 64.34 in 2023 from 66.64 in 2021.

Journalists are facing increasing attacks across the globe. The CPJ found record levels of journalist imprisonment in 2021 and 2023 and increased killings in 2022. Journalists are particularly at risk when reporting on elections, such as in Bangladesh, or on international conflicts like the Israel-Hamas war. They can also have their belongings taken, as in Russia. And they put their life on the line in countries with oppressive regimes, like Myanmar, Iran and Afghanistan.