- As the situation in war-ravaged Liberia is getting more unpredictable, the Taylor regime in enhancing its attack on the remnants of the media. Lately, six radio stations have been shut down and one journalist has been attacked by presidential guards.
According to a release by the Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA), the government of Liberia recently has shut down six amateur FM radio stations operating in Bong County, central Liberia, and Margibi County, some 40 kilometres east of the capital, Monrovia. The stations affected include 'Y-FM', 'Bright FM', 'Jet 89.9', 'The Voice of Kakata' and the 'Voice of YMCA'.
According to MFWA's Liberia sources, no specific charge has been preferred against them. However, the director of the National Communication Bureau at the Ministry of Information, Emmanuel D.S. Todo, alleged that, "the motives and scope of operations of these stations were not clear to the government."
The Association of Amateur Radio Stations (AARS) insists, however, that the affected stations were all registered with the government. The AARS has appealed to the government to allow the stations to resume their operations because of the important community service function they perform in serving the news and information needs of their listeners.
In April 2003, the government imposed a ban on public preaching. A statement signed by Charles Mataley, director of public affairs at the Ministry of Justice, claimed that the measure was "for the sake of public safety."
In another case, one journalist was recently attacked by presidential guards, MFWA reported today. On 27 May 2003, three armed men wearing uniforms of the Presidential elite guard, the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU), attacked Stanley McGill, a journalist working with the independent newspaper 'The News'.
Mr McGill had just returned from work at about 10:45 p.m. (local time) when his assailants, who had apparently been trailing him, accosted him at gunpoint, robbed him of his personal effects, and left with a "promise" to "get back."
This was the second attack on Mr McGill by men wearing state security uniforms. In April 2002, armed men suspected of belonging to the ATU assaulted the journalist and made away with his transistor radio and cellular phone.
MFWA says it is "concerned about the blatant abuse of the freedom of expression rights of Liberians and, in particular, the persistent threats and attacks on journalists and the private media in the country."
On 14 December 2002, five ATU men attacked journalist Throble Suah of 'The Inquirer' newspaper and tortured him until he lost consciousness. His tormentors accused him of publishing stories that sought to embarrass the government. Mr Suah is still hospitalised in Accra, Ghana, and is undergoing physiotherapy for sensory and motor dysfunctions.
The Accra-based media freedom group has asked its followers to take action against these attacks on the Liberian press. MFWA recommends everybody to send appeals to authorities, condemning the attack on journalist McGill and calling on President Charles Taylor's government "to respect the democratic right of all persons in Liberia to exercise their fundamental freedoms of thought and expression and to guarantee the security of journalists in their exercise of those rights."
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