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Newspaper reporter Garmonyou Wilson detained

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Reporter Garmonyou Wilson of the "Inquirer" newspaper was detained over the weekend of 24-26 April 2009 at Liberia's Bureau of Immigration and Nationalization (BIN) in the capital, Monrovia. The reporter was ordered detained by authorities at the Bureau for what they described as "unauthorized photography".

Wilson had photographed and interviewed an Indian national who was arrested and allegedly mistreated by immigration officers upon his return to the country.

Wilson told CEMESP that, on 24 April, while he was on his reportorial duty at the Immigration Bureau, a man identified as Col. Jerry, director of security at the BIN, seized his camera on the grounds that he took snapshots in a restricted area. "In fact, it was shocking to me when I saw this fellow forcibly demanding my camera without even identifying himself or cautioning that there is absolutely no photographing in the hall," Wilson narrated. "Just in a split second, I heard the fellow ordering other unidentified officers to take everything from me and they began pulling me aggressively to a cell without asking for my identification," he further explained.

Wilson added that he told Col. Jerry that he was entitled to a phone call, during which time Wilson telephoned BIN's director of press, Col. Bill Smith, and his boss, the managing editor of the "Inquirer," Mr. Philip N. Wesseh, who promptly intervened.

Despite the numerous interventions, Wilson's rights were violated as he was subsequently detained for 24 hours at the BIN premises. "When I called the BIN director of press, he told me that I was going to be released and needed to exercise some patience," he said.

Wilson said that he was in a cell with two Indian nationals who were later allowed to leave the cell late at night and return the next morning, while he was abandoned in the cell. "Yes, I slept in the cell and was released on Saturday, 25 April, 2009 at about 2p.m. Col. Jerry had already confiscated my camera and requested that I appear at the BIN on Monday at 10a.m.," Wilson explained.

"Upon my release, Col. Jerry openly said that if I had only apologized and agreed to delete the photos I had taken from the outset, I would have been released long since," he concluded. Meanwhile, Wesseh condemned the detention of his reporter and called on the Bureau of Immigration to return the confiscated camera, which is still being held.

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