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Journalist assaulted by senator

(CEMESP/IFEX) - On 5 May 2009, reporter Solomon Ware of Truth FM Radio station in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, was physically assaulted by the president pro tempore of the Liberian Senate, Cletus Wotorson, as the reporter tried to ask him a few questions concerning the abrupt adjournment of the Liberian Senate.

Ware, the station's legislative reporter, was physically hit in the chest by Wotorson, to the disbelief of other journalists and legislative staffers who were on the scene. A journalist who was present during the incident told CEMESP that the incident occurred when the Senate's plenary failed to conduct its regular Tuesday session after Grand Bassa County Senator Gbezohngar Findley requested the Senate adjourn because there was nothing on its agenda for discussion.

Following the abrupt adjournment of the Senate, the senators and others walked out of the chambers, and in keeping with his reportorial duty, Ware walked up to Wotorson to ask why the Senate had to prematurely adjourn.

According to a CEMESP source, Wotorson at first responded to the questions posed to him by Ware, but later got infuriated at the continued line of questioning. As the reporter persisted in trying to get the answers he wanted from the president pro tempore, Wotorson responded by angrily telling Ware not to do to him "what he can't do to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf". In an apparent fit of anger, Wotorson bent his elbow backward into the chest of the reporter, who was close to his side, causing him to bow in pain.

Wotorson later warned Ware: "If you don't stop troubling me with your questions, I will drag you out of this building to serve as a deterrent to other journalists who may want to follow your path of journalism."

The reporter nearly collapsed from the hit in the chest by Wotorson. He was rescued by his colleagues who later took him to another location to cool off. Ware told CEMESP that he is currently experiencing severe pains in his chest as a result of the physical assault on him by Wotorson.

Wotorson took over as president pro tempore of the Liberian Senate barely two months ago.

CEMESP Executive Director Malcolm Joseph has categorically condemned the assault on Ware. Joseph described the action of the president pro tempore, which comes barely two days after the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, as an attack on press freedom in Liberia. The CEMESP director is calling on the plenary of the Senate to take the necessary actions to avoid a reoccurrence of such an incident.

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