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Journalist's arrest follows critical publications about Liberian president's family

Journalist Octavian Williams has been arrested and jailed by the Deputy Police Director for Operations, Colonel Abraham Kromah, in what is generally seen as a dubious circumstance to settle the score for critical publications about the president's family.

Col. Kromah said the arrest was due to Mr. Williams – as publisher of the Nation Times – driving with a foreign license plate. The police have accused Williams of a traffic offense and disorderly conduct.  

The arrest of Williams follows a series of publications alleging that Mr. Robert Sirleaf – the son of the president who is also senior adviser to his mother – is an American citizen. A few weeks ago, Mr. Williams was called to the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) to answer questions surrounding a publication that indicted the president's family of looting state coffers.

He was threatened with forfeiture of license for failure to regularize his status to operate a newspaper.

Meanwhile, media analysts see the arrest and subsequent detention of Mr. Williams as a means of settling scores with the journalist.

It has been seen as a behind-the-scenes action of state functionaries denying bail, as the journalist has not been fully charged. Press Union of Liberia President K. Abubullai Kamara says they are negotiating and would come out with a statement soon.

The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, (CEMESP) has described the action of the police as an unwarranted calculated ploy to clamp down on critical views.

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