Liberian journalist Winston Blyden was recently attacked by a politician’s bodyguards. (Photo: Winston Blyden)

Liberian journalist Winston Blyden attacked by politician’s bodyguards

On June 6, 2023, Hanson Kaizolu, a member of Liberia’s opposition Unity Party, ordered two of his bodyguards to “flog” and “beat up” Winston Blyden, a producer and director with the privately owned broadcaster Bana FM, after he covered daily legislative proceedings at the Capitol building in Monrovia, according to a statement by the local trade group Press Union of Liberia and Blyden, who spoke to CPJ by phone.

Blyden said he heard the politician make the order but assumed he was joking and was surprised when the bodyguards began hitting and punching his head and body. The bodyguards also tore his shirt and seized his mobile phone and cash, amounting to US$75 and 2,000 Liberian dollars (US$11).

Kaizolu accused the journalist of repeatedly “bad-mouthing” him and other Unity Party members, including the party’s leader, Joseph Boakai, and broadcasting media programs favorable to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change, of which Bana FM founder Abu Bana Kamara is a registered member.

Blyden said he received treatment at a local hospital and was prescribed medication for pain in his back, shoulders, and head.

On June 7, Bhofal Chambers, the speaker of the House of Representatives and member of the Congress for Democratic Change, gave the journalist US$50 to cover the costs of his medication and promised to investigate the incident. As of June 26, Blyden told CPJ he has not heard of any developments.

Akoi Massaboi Baysah Junior, secretary of the Press Union of Liberia, told CPJ by phone on June 26 that the union reported the matter to the National Media Council, a section of the union responsible for resolving grievances and mediating issues involving journalists in the country. Baysah said the council was currently investigating the matter.

Unity Party spokesperson Amos Tweah told CPJ by messaging app that his party had not been informed of any attack on a journalist by a party member. CPJ’s call and texts to Kaizolu seeking comment received no response.

For years, journalists in Liberia have been threatened and attacked while covering protests and local politics.