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Journalists briefly held hostage by head of youth federation

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Eight journalists from several media outlets in Liberia were, on 7 January 2010, held hostage at the headquarters of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY ) in Monrovia.

The journalists had gone to the FLY headquarters to attend a press conference convened by the chairman of the Montserrado county FLY chapter, Jeffesson Chochie. They were locked up by the federation's national president, Jimmy Sankaituah.

The journalists, Charles Gbollie, of Star Radio, Sawar Fallah, of "FrontPage" newspaper, Daniel Nyakanah, of Radio Veritas, Emmanuel Johnson, of the "News" newspaper, Varney Kamara, of "The Analyst" newspaper, Augustine Octavious, of Kings FM radio, David Kolleh, of the "Daily Observer" newspaper, and Robert Clarke, of Sky Communication, were among several people locked up at the FLY offices.

According to two of the reporters, upon arrival at the federation's offices, the FLY president immediately demanded that the press conference which was underway be stopped.

The objective of the press conference, according to Chochie, was to expose some financial and administrative malpractices within the youth organisation ahead of its national elections.

When Chochie insisted that the press conference proceed, the FLY president left the conference room and locked the main exit route from the room.

The journalists told CEMESP that after almost two hours they made calls to security authorities to demand their release from what appeared to be a case of unlawful custody. They were later rescued and released by a squadron of police officers who appeared at the scene.

Through their spokesman, Samwar Fallah, the affected journalists have vowed to lodge a formal complaint with the Press Union of Liberia, the minister of justice and the National Legislature.

CEMESP, through its executive director Malcolm Joseph, has described the actions of the FLY president as a violation of the universal rights of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Joseph also described the actions of Sankaituah as a calculated attempt to suppress access to information.

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