Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Behind Bars

How an FPA Correspondent was detained for nearly 16 hours at Voinjama Police cell

Barely days after the publication of a Spot News story captioned: “drunk, cheater or a thief-man, the Lofa County Correspondent of FrontPage Africa, found himself squarely in Voinjama police detention cell on various charges including disorderly conduct, defamation of character etc.
The spot News publication in the May 2, 2011 edition of FrontPage Africa showed the picture of a suspicious man who got trapped in a Voinjama dilapidated well at mid -night and was incapable of rescuing himself.
In the aftermath of the publication, the man, a popular local petroleum vendor, now claims the author of the story Journalist Stephen D. Kollie lied on him.
He denied ever being a drunk, cheater or thief-man as was captioned in question mark in the May 2, 2011 publication.
In retaliation to the article, the man only identified as Mettie, took the FPA correspondent to task by inviting officers of the Liberia National Police at the residence of journalist Kollie for his immediate arrest to justify his story.
At about 7:45 PM, on Thursday May 4, 2011, journalist Kollie was picked up from his house and taken to the Voinjama police headquarters for questioning which led to his instant detention.
Accompanied by two other colleagues from UNMIL radio, journalist Kollie was asked by police officers sitting in the charge of quarters to articulate what transpired between him and the petroleum vendor but refused to give any account.
Journalist Kollie maintained that he had been advised by his boss not to release any statement and that if the vendor has any case against him or FrontPage Africa let him file a law suit.
On the other hand, Mettie contended that he has no case with FrontPage Africa but with Journalist Kollie who was the writer of the article. He said he has been looked at hideous in the society and nearly committed suicide since the publication of the article.
After journalist Kollie refused to give out any statement to the Police investigation team headed by one Kromah, the police then charged him with disorderly conduct, defamation of characters, and perjury.
It was not comprehensible how the police resulted to the disorderly conduct charges and why the vendor did not take his case against the publisher of the paper that he claimed destroyed his character in a competent court of jurisdiction.
Just in seconds, the deputy commander who appeared very biter with the FPA correspondent ordered journalist Kollie detention for the rest of 16 hours before his release. 
Other journalist from different media institutions pleaded with the deputy commander and the Vendor not to detain Kollie and that the issue should be withdrawn from the police depot.
At about 9:45 PM, journalist Kollie was asked by police officers to take off his shoes and other personal belongings and enter the cell which is extremely polluted with stinking urine smell.

The FPA correspondent slept the rest of his night in the stinking cell and was later released by morning hours after the intervention of Mr. Rodney D. Sieh and other officials

Before the FPA Managing Editor intervention on Friday, May 6, 2011, the vendor had agreed to family members and friends of Mr. Kollie to withdraw his case from the police only if journalist Kollie was in readiness to pay what he termed as expenses and write a letter of apology to be published and broadcast in about 7 media institutions; all of which Kollie refused to do when told.
But after Mr. Sieh urged him via mobile phone to take his matter to court, he subsequently told the police to pull out the case from their record adding that he would file a lawsuit with an unspecified court in Monrovia.