Saturday 19 August 2017

Liberia editor detained over 'cannibal' African leader story

Liberia editor detained over 'cannibal' African leader story
(AFP 09/16/16)

A Liberian newspaper editor was arrested Thursday after republishing an article from Britain's Daily Mail website that alleges the president of Equatorial Guinea is a cannibal.

On Sunday the British tabloid posted an article about longtime President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo alleging the strongman skinned opponents alive and ate their testicles, brains and livers.

The New Democrat reprinted certain elements of the piece by journalist Thomas Burrows on its Wednesday front page, attracting the ire of the information minister.

Festus Poquie, editor of the New Democrat newspaper, was then detained by plain-clothed police and locked in a cell for several hours before his release on Thursday afternoon.

"The Liberia National Police can confirm that its Crime Services Division is holding a conversation with a senior Editor of the New Democrat, Festus Poquie," a police statement sent to AFP read.

Liberia's information minister Eugene Nagbe had already contacted the country's press union to complain about the article and demand action be taken against the New Democrat.

"Considering that the conduct of the publisher of New Democrat marks a most dangerous departure from the principles of professional journalism, we demand and insist that the paper be penalised," read a letter signed by Nagbe.

The Press Union of Liberia described his arrest as "an act of intimidation against the freedom of press in Liberia," at a moment of high tension between the media and the government.

Earlier this month journalist Jallah Grayfield lodged a complaint with police after alleging she received intimidating texts from a junior minister, while the government shut down two radio stations known for their critical stance on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this summer.

Reporters Without Borders said the public had "a right to hear all opinions, even those that are critical and irritate the current government," following the case of the minister.

Obiang, who heads sub-Saharan's Africa's third largest oil producer, is the continent's longest serving leader and has served since taking power in a coup in 1979.

Equatorial Guinea is regularly tagged as one of Africa's most corrupt and authoritarian states.

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