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Liberia13 February 2002

A newspaper closed down and four journalists arrested due to the state of emergency

In a letter addressed to the Minister for Information, Reginald Goodridge, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF) protested against the arrest of several journalists and the closure of the private Analyst Newspaper publication. RSF asked the minister to go to the competent authorities in order to have the journalists who are being detained released immediately. "The state of emergency is an exceptional situation which should not, under any circumstances, be a pretext for the authorities to censor and muzzle the independent press. As far as we know, these journalists were simply doing their job", Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of RSF, pointed out. "Depriving the Liberian population of independent news sources in the current climate is particularly dangerous, and is unlikely to help ease the situation", the Secretary-General added.

On February 13 2002, according to information obtained by RSF, the Monrovia police arrested at least four journalists from the Analyst Newspaper. The director of the publication, Stanley Sankor, and a reporter, James Llody, are among those detained. According to the chief of police, Paul Mulbah, they were arrested because of several articles that were "not out for peace" and "poisoned the minds of the people". The officer quoted a few headlines published by the newspaper ("Liberians drowning in horrors", "Emergency power pinches businesses", "What rights and freedoms can the President suspend?"), and added that he would pursue "any journalist who tries to subvert the peace". The four men are being held in a cell at the police station in Monrovia. The police has also closed down the premises of the Analyst Newspaper.

The Head of State, Charles Taylor, declared the state of emergency on February 8 2002, after an attack by rebels on the town of Klay, around 40 km north of the capital.

RSF added the reminder that in 2001, seven journalists were arrested in Liberia for having criticized the government or high-ranking officials of the country.

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