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Journalists sued for libel by media executive for criticising his defence of police brutality against reporters

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 19 December 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Supports Journalists Sued for Libel by Media Executive in Liberia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today backed the call of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) for journalists in the country to stand in solidarity with six colleagues and a newspaper accused of libel by Ambrose Nmah, the general manager of a media group.

Nmah, who also presents a news program on the radio, is suing the journalists after they published a statement calling on the PUL to investigate him for allegedly making comments on his radio program justifying physical attacks on journalists by police officers.

"It's an amazing situation when one journalist would state publicly that some of his colleagues should be subject to violence," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We support all the actions taken so far by our affiliate, the PUL, to solve the matter. We believe that this matter should be solved by the media community and not in the court system."

Ambrose Nmah is the general manager of Renaissance Communication Incorporated, a pro-government media group that owns Truth FM radio and Real TV. On October 17, Nmah and his company launched a libel suit against Star radio Editor-in-chief Geevon Smith, The News' editor Sheriff Adams, The Parrot's managing editor Robert Kpadeh, The Independent's managing editor Sam Dean, Plain Truth's publisher Seranous Cephus and former PUL Secretary General Alphonsus.

According to the PUL, the six journalists in a statement on 12 October called on the union to investigate comments Nmah allegedly made during a programme on Truth Fm "justifying attacks on some journalists for their breach of security protocol according to state authorities, during the visit to Liberia of Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma [last September]."

"[Nmah said] on his show that I would have been responsible for my own death if I had been killed," BBC Stringer Jonathan Paye-Layleh, told the PUL. Paye-Layleh was brutally assaulted while covering President Koroma's visit. He is not involved in the libel suit.

Public Agenda newspaper is also being sued for alleged publication of defamatory articles.

The plaintiff is claiming 10,000.00 US dollars in damages. The trial was due to start on Monday but it has been postponed and no new date has been set.

The IFJ believes that Nmah and the other journalists should allow the PUL to mediate this conflict and decide what if any actions need to be taken.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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