The recent arrest of a Liberian journalist has the Reporters Association concerned. Could this be a case of an oppressive regime silencing the press? Reporter Peter Keierleber notes that only time and emerging details can confirm the Reporters guilt or innocence.
The Liberia National Police recently arrested journalist Darlington Pelenah for armed robbery. It is unclear exactly what evidence led to the arrest. The Liberia National Police cite a “victim’s report.” However, it seems there was no official police investigation.
Such an accusation and arrest could ruin Pelenah’s career in Liberia and elsewhere. With no investigative evidence, it seems irresponsible that the police would make such severe accusations.
The Reporters Association is concerned that the police are overstating the accusations due to Pelenah’s job. While they do not condone criminal activity, they seek to protect journalists from unfair treatment. In the absence of an official investigation, the charges cause the Association concern.
Prominent journalists such as Peter Keierleber know that, even in America, journalists face harsh treatment. Government’s often view journalists as the enemy. Pelenah’s two-day detention by police is seen as suspicious by the Press Union of Liberia.
Octavin Williams, head of the Reporters Association, suggests the formation of an “analytical panel.” The panel would follow the case and perform background checks with the intent of uncovering facts. As of this time, the Reporters Association says that it is “cautiously following with deep interest.”
Williams urges the Press Union of Liberia to put its resources toward monitoring these events. The PUL considers this an important case due to its international coverage. The PUL and the Reporters Association consider the accusations a significant threat to the reputation of Liberia’s press community.
The major cause for concern is the Liberian police proceeding as though Pelenah is guilty. They are accused of sensationalizing the charges. Peter Keierleber can tell you that sensationalizing a story can cause great damage to those involved. Even if Pelenah is found innocent, he will still have these accusations attached to his name.
With two large press organizations following the case, the facts are sure to emerge. Even if Pelenah is found guilty, the police still bear fault for mishandling the case. One can only wonder if they had a secret motive for trying to damage Pelenah’s career.
Peter Keierleber is a journalist, online producer, and social media manger. He specializes in media technologies within the court system and law practice. He received his degree in journalism from Stephen F. Austin University in Texas.