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Newspaper managing editor and reporter receive death threats; football club president threatens to have sports journalist flogged

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Moses Sonkarley, the managing editor of Liberia's newest newspaper "The Renaissance", and Nathaniel McClin, a reporter for the paper, have complained of threats against their lives following the publication of a front page story in the 10 September 2008 edition of the paper about an alleged coup plot against the government.

Sonkarley told CEMESP that at about 1:00 a.m. (local time) on 11 September, he received an anonymous call on his mobile phone warning him of dire consequences for having published the story.

According to Sonkarley, the anonymous caller accused "The Renaissance"'s management of being paid to publish the story against what the caller described as "prominent sons of the land". The caller later said, "You will feel the weight of your action."

Sonkarley said he received three anonymous threatening calls. The managing editor's family has expressed concern for his safety.

McClin told CEMESP that at about 5:00 p.m. on 10 September, he also received an anonymous call from an individual who said, "This is your second time writing such (a) story on sensitive issues and you must be prepared for anything."

According to an investigation conducted by CEMESP, George Dweh, former transitional government speaker and a former member of the disbanded rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), had complained to "The Renaissance"'s management about the fact that Sonkarley and McClin had linked him to the alleged coup plot in the article.

CEMESP categorically condemns the alleged threats on the lives of the two journalists by the unidentified callers. The organisation calls on whoever feels aggrieved by the publication to channel their grievances through the Ethics and Grievance Committee of the Press Union of Liberia.

In a separate development, sports reporter Roland Mulbah, of "Sportsmax" newspaper, has complained of death threats issued by Tugbeh Chien Tugbeh, president of the Liberia Football Association's (LFA) second division club side 72nd FC.

In a letter of complaint to the Sports Writers Association of Liberia (SWAL), a copy of which was sent to CEMESP, Mulbah said he is convinced that the threats are linked to his recent reports on the boycott of the on-going LFA 2008 national league by some aggrieved members of the LFA family. Tugbeh is the spokesperson for the LFA members who are boycotting the league.

Mulbah told CEMESP that "Sportsmax" has been using Tugbeh's photograph each time the paper reports on the league boycott, simply because Tugbeh is the group's spokesperson, not because of any malice.

The SWAL has acknowledged receipt of Mulbah's complaint. SWAL President Numinee Williams informed CEMESP that initial contact with Tugbeh, aimed at resolving the issue, has proven futile.

According to Williams, Tugbeh told the SWAL leadership that he will not relent in his efforts to have Mulbah flogged for constantly publishing his photograph in the newspaper.

SWAL says it is studying the matter and will issue a position statement shortly.

CEMESP has described the alleged threat on Mulbah's life as a calculated attempt by Tugbeh to frighten the journalist and subsequently silence the Liberian sports press. In an interview with the press, CEMESP Executive Director Malcolm Joseph condemned the attack on the reporter and called on Tugbeh to refrain from making such barbaric statements as, "paying thugs to beat the journalist to death if he does not refrain from publishing his photograph in his newspaper."

Joseph then advised Tugbeh to follow due process if he feels offended by the publication of his photograph in connection with the boycott story.

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