Journalists hold up signs protesting what they claim has been a pattern of using excessive force against them by the police and…
Journalists hold up signs protesting what they claim has been a pattern of using excessive force against them by the police and members of the government's security forces in Monrovia, Liberia, March 12, 2020.

MONROVIA, LIBERIA - Liberian journalists rallied in the capital Monrovia on Thursday, and some newspapers darkened their homepages, in protest at alleged harassment they face from security forces.

The protest follows the death last month of Liberian broadcaster Zenu Koboi Miller, in circumstances which sparked outrage in the impoverished West African state.

Miller was allegedly manhandled by President George Weah's bodyguards while covering a football tournament, and was admitted to hospital not long afterwards.

He died of hypertension and stroke, medical staff told Miller's family, which has accepted the explanation.

However, some Liberian journalists believe he succumbed to injuries sustained during the bodyguard incident.

Liberian journalists protest in Monrovia on March 12, 2020, and some newspapers darkened their front pages, in protest at alleged harassment they face from security forces.

On Thursday, scores of journalists marched through Monrovia toting placards bearing slogans such as "Stop beating me while I am doing my work" and "Journalists are not your drums."

In a show of solidarity, some smaller newspapers darkened their homepages and some radio stations suspended normal programming to interview journalists about violence and intimidation.

"This constant aggression against journalists must stop. We are tired of it and can no longer bear it," journalist Cyrus Harmon told AFP.

Liberia's Press Union also handed the government a statement in which it said "attacks, detention, intimidation and brutality meted against media practitioners have become unprecedented."

It added that it saw such behavior as "deliberate attempts to force journalists into self-censorship."

Pointing to 10 attacks on journalists over the last three months, including the one on Miller, the union demanded the government investigate abuse claims.

FILE - Liberia's President George Weah speaks at the Presidential palace during a visit to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, April 4, 2018.

Liberia's Presidential Affairs Minister Nathaniel McGill promised reporters on Thursday that the government would do so.

"The government is nothing without the press," he said.

Weah, a former international footballer, has faced criticism about treatment of the media under his administration before.

Liberia's press union in December 2018 complained of "reinforced hostilities" from his ruling circle, for example.

Earlier that year, Weah sought to allay concerns when he met the heads of the country's media.

"I want to promise you ... 200 percent freedom of expression and press freedom under my government," he said at the time.