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Liberia25 April 2006

Appeal to new police chief after two reporters beaten by police

Reporters Without Borders today called on the new head of the Liberia National Police, Beatrice Munah Sieh, to take energetic measures to ensure respect for the work of the press after two reporters were beaten by police officers while covering the eviction of street vendors in Monrovia on 20 April.

“When everything suggests Liberia is entering a new era, the streets of Monrovia should not still be a danger zone for the press,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Police brutality against journalists should no longer treated as commonplace and unremarkable, but as misconduct that requires punishment. The police high command should take this incident seriously if, as it claims, it wants to restore the public’s confidence in the police.”

On arriving at the scene of a police operation to remove street vendors, Charles B. Yates of the privately-owned daily The Inquirer and Morris Gayboe of the privately-owned daily The Informer were told they did not have authorisation to take photographs. When Gayboe nonetheless took pictures of a youth being arrested, several policeman began hitting him with their batons. Yates tried to intervene, explaining they were both journalists. But a policeman responded: “You too, you want your own like your friend?” And then Yates was also clubbed.

The incident came a week after the new police chief undertook to restore public confidence in the police when she took office on 13 April. She said without public trust, the work of the police was “meaningless” and she promised to establish “transparency and accountability” within the force. During a tour of Monrovia’s markets the same day, she called on street vendors to stop blocking the pavement and move to the covered markets.

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