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Liberian journalist detained over story about Equatorial Guinea's president

Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, center, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, 28 April 2015.
Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, center, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting in Beijing, 28 April 2015.

Shigeru Nagahara/Pool Photo via AP

This statement was originally published by cemespliberia.org on 15 September 2016.

Following the re-publication by the New Democrat newspaper of the UK-based Daily Mail news story of harrowing revelations of cannibalism by the President of Equatorial Guinea, the government of Liberia arrested and detained the newspaper's editor.

In the early hours of 15 September 2016, journalist Festus Poquie was picked up in front of the New Democrat newspaper offices in Monrovia by an unidentified vehicle and subsequently taken to the headquarters of the Liberian National Police on Capitol Hill, where he was detained for several hours.

The police said he was been held because his newspaper failed to contact the Government of Equatorial Guinea to verify what they termed as libellous claims by Thomas Burrows – the original author of the news story. Poquie was later released following the intervention of the Press Union of Liberia and human rights lawyer Cllr. Taiwon Gongoloe.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, was linked to documented rights abuses by various international human rights institutions since he took office in 1979. His former Advisor, Severo Moto made the horrifying revelation of evil practices against his former boss in an interview which was captured by the global media as "Torturer in Chief". In reaction to the September 13, 2016 story of the paper, the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism described the story as reckless and libellously unbalanced against President Nguema. "We demand and insist that the paper be penalized and made to retract the story following a speedy investigation into the story" said Eugene Lenn Nagbe, Minister of Information.

The Press Union of Liberia has condemned the action of the government of Liberia against Poquoi, citing that culling is a normal practice in journalism and as such, no journalist should be arrested for that. The Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) – through its Executive director Malcolm Joseph – has described the action by the government of Liberia to subject Poquie to the Criminal Services division of the Liberia National Police means they have criminalized his action. CEMESP says that undermines all efforts being made towards decriminalizing speech in Liberia. 

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