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Lawyer in Liberia (allegedly) threatens journalist with death

A man sells newspapers with headlines featuring the recent presidential elections on a roadside in Monrovia, Liberia, 29 December 2017
A man sells newspapers with headlines featuring the recent presidential elections on a roadside in Monrovia, Liberia, 29 December 2017

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on cemespliberia.org on 29 August 2018.

A journalist working for the Frontpage Africa newspaper in Liberia has been threatened with death by a lawyer.

On August 15, 2018, the lawyer, Charles Abdullai, reportedly threatened to kill Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, the journalist, as well as kidnap one of her children if she does not stop publishing stories about his client, according to the Frontpage Africa newspaper.

"I received a telephone call from 0881790190 asking if it was Bettie of Frontpage Africa. I said yes, and the only thing I heard next was 'if you don't stop writing on my client, you will be assassinated from now to September 15'," the journalist has explained.

The newspaper further states that the reporter received a second call from a different number in which the caller threatened her with the disappearance of one of her children if she continued to write about his client. The name of the client was not mentioned.

When lawyer Charles Abdullai was contacted by the Management of Frontpage Africa, he admitted making the calls but insisted that it was a mere prank.

The leadership of the newspaper has however refused to take the matter lightly and has reported the incident to the police.

The Centre for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), a leading press freedom and freedom of expression advocacy organization in Liberia, has condemned the threat on the reporter and called for investigations.

"It is unfortunate for a lawyer to reduce himself to issuing threats against a journalist in the name of protecting his clients. We urge the Liberia Bar Association to inquire into the incident and sanction its member, Charles Abdullai, for his offensive conduct," said Malcolm Wleemogar Joseph, Executive Director of CEMESP.

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