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Liberia1 February 2008

Newspaper publisher narrowly escapes plot to kill him

Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned to learn of journalist Sam O. Dean’s discovery that a thousand US dollars were offered for his murder. Dean, who publishes the Monrovia-based Independent Newspaper, appears to have narrowly escaped death on 30 January when an attempt was made to lure him into an ambush.

“The attempt to murder Dean and the contract put on his head are very disturbing,” the press freedom organisation said. “We urge the authorities, who showed goodwill towards the Independent Newspaper by lifting a publishing ban last year, to conduct a thorough investigation in order to shed full light on this incident.”

Godfrey “Spirit” Beyan, a former general in the rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia, went to see Dean at the offices of the Independent Newspaper on the morning of 30 January with the declared aim of “buying advertising space.” After he left, Dean was warned by a car washer that Beyan had offered 1,000 US dollars to a former comrade-in-arms, Beyan “Fifty” Kamara, to kill Dean.

A few minutes later, Dean received a phone call from Beyan inviting him to “come and conclude the arrangements.” Beyan added that he would not be there, but he would send his “assistant.” Deducing that the real aim was to get him to go to the place where Kamara would shoot him, Dean immediately alerted the police.

The police arrested Kamara first, and then arrested Beyan after sending Kamara to tell him that the “mission was accomplished” and that he wanted his money. A police source confirmed that 1,000 dollars was the amount that Kamara said he was offered by Beyan.

The Independent Newspaper made local headlines last year after splashing a story with photos of the minister for presidential affairs having sex with two women. Dean was briefly arrested and then disappeared from view. The police said they knew nothing of his whereabouts and, as he was considered a fugitive from justice, his home and office were placed under police surveillance.

At the same time, the government withdrew the newspaper’s licence for a year for “immoral publications” and ordered its closure. The newspaper’s lawyers filed suit against the justice ministry for failing to obtain a proper court order. The Press Union of Liberia, which had ordered the newspaper’s suspension for three months, also challenged the ministry’s action. In March, the supreme court finally lifted the publishing ban. The information ministry followed suit on 30 May.

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