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Journalist covering protest about Ebola virus arrested, beaten in Liberia

Liberian soldiers check people travelling in Bomi County, 11 August 2014. Liberian troops set up Ebola roadblocks and stopped public access to some of the worst-hit towns after the country declared a state of emergency
Liberian soldiers check people travelling in Bomi County, 11 August 2014. Liberian troops set up Ebola roadblocks and stopped public access to some of the worst-hit towns after the country declared a state of emergency

REUTERS/Stringer

FrontPage Africa journalist Henry Karmo has been beaten by police officers at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that houses the president's office. The journalist was flogged while photographing protesters who were protesting the imposition of a state of emergency declared by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as a response to tackling the deadly Ebola virus.

Karmo alleges that officers of the Liberian National Police arrested, flogged and took him to prison despite the fact that he displayed his identification card as an FPA reporter.

Explaining his ordeal, Karmo alleges that he was asked to identify himself, which he did. Nevertheless, he was arrested by the police commander, whose name was not given. His camera was reportedly impounded.

The president's letter sent to the legislature last week – informing lawmakers about the state of emergency – said that some rights of Liberians would be violated. The recent action taken by state security forces have left media analysts wondering what kind of benefit the government anticipates from targeting the media as a critical partner in tackling the Ebola scourge.

Responding to the alleged flogging of Karmo, Police Commissioner Geogery Coleman – commonly referred to as "104" – said that Karmo was in "the wrong place at the wrong time."

He also warned Karmo and other reporters in the country to avoid the police in these 90 days of the state of emergency because – according to him – while the country is under a state of emergency, some rights of Liberians will be violated. This is a tacit allusion to freedom of expression under siege.

The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) has deplored the development as not a helpful way to proceed during this trying time.

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