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CPJ: Liberian journalists assaulted while covering senate election, sports tournament

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On December 14, 2020, two supporters of Liberian senatorial candidate Botoe Kanneh beat up and threatened to kill Henry Bobo Gboluma, a reporter with the privately owned Local Voices Liberia news website, according to Gboluma, who spoke by phone with CPJ, and a report by his employer.

Gboluma said he photographed the men at an election office in Normor, a town in Liberia’s western Gbarpolu county, as they took ballot papers from elections officials, claiming that votes for Kanneh’s opponent had been illegally cast.

Gboluma was at the office reporting on events leading up to Gbarpolu county elections that were scheduled for December 15, but which were later rescheduled to the following month, he said.

The men cut Gboluma’s press accreditation card from his neck and then punched him in the chest and head for about two minutes, until another of Kanneh’s supporters intervened and pulled him out of the scuffle, he said. The attackers threatened to kill Gboluma if he continued covering the election dispute, he told CPJ.

Gboluma said he took a motorbike out of the area and went to a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, where he was examined and treated for pains in his head and chest.

When CPJ contacted Kanneh, she denied that any of her supporters had attacked Gboluma, and disputed his characterization of the incident in subsequent media reports.

Separately, on January 26, 2021, two officers with Liberia’s National Police Emergency Response Unit pushed and slapped Julius Nimely Konton Sr., the founder of the privately owned Fortune TV Liberia news website and YouTube channel, according to Konton, who spoke by phone with CPJ, and a report by the Sports Writers Association of Liberia, a local trade group.

Guards stopped Konton as he attempted to enter the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, to cover a local tournament, he said.

Konton identified himself as an accredited broadcast reporter, but the officers told him to use a different gate to access the section of the stadium, and then attacked him and threatened to hit him with the butts of their guns, he said.

According to Konton and a report by Fortune TV Liberia, the journalist developed a headache due to the attack and was unable to work for two days.

CPJ called and texted Liberian national police spokesperson Moses Carter, but did not receive any replies.

CPJ has documented similar attacks and threats against journalists by security forces and civilians in the days leading up to the country’s elections in 2020.

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