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Clergyman assaults journalists, seizes camera

(CEMESP/IFEX) - Journalist Welemongai Ciapha, of the "Frontpage Africa" newspaper, and photojournalist Molinda Mulbah were, on 14 December 2011, beaten up by Pastor Bethel Onyeneken of the Solution Temple Church and his bodyguards. Their camera was also seized as they attempted to photograph the pastor.

The incident took place in the precinct of the Temple of Justice, where Pastor Onyeneken had been taken to court on an allegation of having stolen a gold chain.

The "Frontpage Africa", "New Dawn" and "New Democrat" newspapers of 15 December carried photos of the melee in which Pastor Onyeneken and his bodyguards were seen grabbing the journalists in an apparent attempt to prevent them from taking photographs.

After the assault, various newspapers quoted the assistant county attorney for Montserrado, Dedeh Jomah Wilson, justifying the beating of the journalists and the seizure of the camera.

The Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) has condemned the mistreatment of the journalists and the seizure of their camera, while also taking exception to the reported comments made by the assistant county attorney.

CEMESP expressed disappointment that a government-paid lawyer would support anyone taking the law into their own hands, assaulting journalists who were simply doing their work. In addition, the organisation warned that this type of stance also tends to undermine justice and provides greater leverage for impunity.

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