Liberia: Journalist Detained for Republishing Story on President of Equatorial Guinea

On September 15, 2016, Festus Poquie, a journalist and editor of New Democrat, in Mnewspaper onrovia, was arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Liberian National Police where he was detained for several hours before being released.

The MFWA’s national partner in Liberia, the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuiling (CEMESP), reported that Poquie’s detention was as a result of a story republished by his newspaper on September 13, 2016.

The story, originally published by UK-based Daily Mail, contained details of alleged acts of cannibalism by the President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

CEMESP reports the police as saying that Poquie was arrested and detained because his newspaper failed to contact the Government of Equatorial Guinea to verify claims made in the story by Thomas Burrows – the original author of the news story. Poquie was later released following the intervention of the Press Union of Liberia and human rights lawyer Taiwon Gongoloe.

The Liberian Minister of Information, Eugene Lenn Nagbe, is reported to have called for the newspaper to be penalized and made to retract the story.

Meanwhile CEMESP has criticised the action by the Liberian government, contending that the act “undermines all efforts being made towards decriminalizing speech in Liberia.”

The Press Union of Liberia has also condemned Poquoi’s arrest. The Union said that the journalists should not be arrested for culling a story since “it is a normal journalism practice.”