Journalists Assaulted in Liberia

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December 10, 1998

H.E. Charles Taylor
President of the Republic of Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia


Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly alarmed by the November 23, 1998, assaults on journalists and the vandalism of the Sabannoh Printing Press committed by a group of individuals identified as former combatants in the ongoing conflict in the country, and the failure of government security guards and police, who were present during the incident, to intervene to stop the assaults and destruction of property. In addition, CPJ is disturbed by the harassment of J. Kpanquor Jallah, Jr., a reporter for the independent newspaper Heritage, who police detained at the scene while the crimes were in process.

The assailants stormed the Sabannoh Printing Press, assaulted journalists, destroyed copies of the independent Inquirer and TheNews newspapers, and vandalized the printing press machinery. The attack was in response to a November 21, 1998, story published in the Heritage newspaper, titled "Ex-Fighters Plan Mass Demonstration," which reported that former combatants had planned to demonstrate to demand that they receive benefits from the government. The Sabannoh Printing Press is also the printer for Heritage.

According to CPJ sources, neither government security guards posted at the printing press nor armed police officers who arrived on the scene intervened to stop the assaults on journalists and Sabannoh employees or the vandalism. Police did, however, detain Jallah, who wrote the offending article. The journalist was released after colleagues demanded that police produce a warrant for his arrest, which they did not possess. Mr. Ngabe, a journalist for TheNews, received a deep laceration on his back during the attack. CPJ sources also report that he was pointed out as a journalist to the attackers by a government security guard assigned to protect the printing press.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of our colleagues around the world, CPJ strongly protests these violent attacks. The failure of law enforcement personnel to intervene sends a chilling message of approbation to those who would use violence against journalists. These incidents constitute a flagrant violation of journalists' right to report the news as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, all to which, we respectfully remind Your Excellency, Liberia is a signatory.

CPJ strongly urges you to ensure that journalists' right to report the news is respected in Liberia, and to instruct law enforcement personnel to uphold the law when journalists are attacked. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We welcome your reply.

Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director



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H.E. Charles Taylor
President of the Republic of Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia
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