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Liberian journalist arrested for photographing police director

(CEMESP/IFEX) - 16 October 2012 - Journalist George Borteh, the Acting Vice President of the Judicial Reporters Association of Liberia (JURAL) and a reporter for The New Republic newspaper, was thrown in prison on 12 October, 2012, after taking a photo of Police Director Chris Massaquoi at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. Borteh was detained for more than three hours.

Massaquoi was offended by the action of the journalist. He questioned Borteh as to why he took his photo and the journalist replied by saying: "You are a public figure on public grounds and I am taking [a] picture for record['s] sake." Unfortunately, such an explanation did not appease the police director, who ordered his officers to throw the journalist in prison.

The director was quoted as saying: "just because you are a journalist does not mean you are above the law." Unfortunately, Massaquoi could not cite the aspect of the law Borteh violated. He only said Borteh was arrested for assaulting him, something many onlookers considered far from the truth.

JURAL's Acting President, Fallah Mathews, immediately condemned the police director's action while Borteh was in detention at the Liberia National Police Headquarters. Matthews termed the arrest as an attempt to "muzzle the press" from carrying out its reportorial duties. He further stated that if Massaquoi felt assaulted by the journalist's action, he should have reported the case to the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) - the umbrella organisation of all journalists in Liberia - to take appropriate action, instead of taking the law in his own hands.

However, after spending over three hours in detention, Borteh was released on the intervention of Alphanso Tweh, a publisher for The New Republic, and was given all of his gadgets that were seized during arrest.