Liberia Bans Independent Reports of Fighting
July 28, 2000

The Liberian Government has placed a news embargo on fighting between its forces and dissidents. A new armed group known as Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) attacked the country's northern part two weeks, capturing the provincial capital and surrounding towns and rekindling the 7-year war which killed 250,000 people.

The country's Ministry of Information issued a statement Tuesday warning Liberian and foreign based journalists to avoid publishing misleading information that would stir up despair or dash the hope of the public regarding the current conflict in Lofa County. The release warned journalists to verify all information regarding the conflict in Lofa with the Ministry of Information. The Ministry says, henceforth, all journalists desirous of covering the war in Lofa must contact its officials.

Press reports from Monrovia, the capital , also said Defense Minister Daniel Chea has warned reporters against speculative reporting. "He said reporters having story on the on-going insurgence in Lofa must clarify such story with the Defense before publication. He warned that any reporter publishing speculative stories without first contacting the Defense authorities will be called for questioning or clarification" a local newspaper reported. Minister Chea's earlier claims that the rebels had been expelled from Liberia were disputed by President Taylor, who told the nation that the fighting was "serious." He appealed for volunteers to dislodge the dissidents.

A similar news embargo was applied by assassinated President Samuel Doe in 1990 when he battled Charles Taylor's rebel National Patriotic Front of Liberia. Several Liberian journalists were killed by the competing armies. Newspaper houses and radio stations were burnt down. The late President warned journalists discussing rebels to produce them in person or be dealt with.

Information about the fighting is sketchy. Rural dwellers complain that since the banning of Star Radio by the Government, they have not been receiving information of events in the country. In interviews with journalists, they said news of the incursion is beyond their reach because there is no news medium to reach them.

In 1996, Taylor's rebels burnt down most newspaper houses and looted several radio stations during his war against the Krahns, President Doe's ethnic group. The Government's news blackout makes it impossible in confirming Government and rebel claims. No independent journalist has visited the contested areas while claims and counter claims of successes by both sides flare.

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