Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor
Office of the President, Capitol Hill
1000 Monrovia 10

Fax: 00 231 226-076

Vienna, 17 July 2000
Your Excellency,

The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors and journalists, condemns in the strongest possible terms the latest acts of intimidation and harassment by the Liberian authorities against the New Democrat newspaper.

According to the information before IPI, staff members at the New Democrat newspaper have been subjected to repeated threats from government officials and security personnel. These threats come at a time when the government is accusing the newspaper s journalists of placing information on the Internet which is "detrimental" to the countries reputation. Due to the government s intimidation, all advertising in the paper has been stopped and potential advertisers have been warned by the government not to do business with the newspaper.

As a consequence of the attacks and loss of advertising revenue, the newspaper has ceased production and its editorial staff members are in hiding. In addition, several reporters have resigned in order to escape the further attentions of the authorities.

There has been a deeply worrying history of government action against the New Democrat. In 1996, the offices of the newspaper were burnt down, allegedly upon the orders of the authorities. Following the 1997 elections, the government rejected the paper's application to commence publication which was only granted after an extensive international campaign. Furthermore, several persons suspected of being critical of the government, among them Norwai Flomo, Samuel Dokie and three members of his family, have in the past disappeared.

As a result of the actions of the government, reporters are in a virtual state of siege with the government and security officials using arrests and interrogations as the most common methods of intimidation. These attacks would also appear to be linked to Your Excellency s statement that you would become "ferocious" with the New Democrat for its coverage of the death of vice president Enoch Dogolea.

The government intimidation and harassment of the New Democrat is in gross violation of everyone's right to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers" as guaranteed by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. May I also respectfully remind Your Excellency that Liberia is a signatory of the African Charter of Human Rights which guarantees freedom of expression.

Therefore, IPI urges Your Excellency to do everything in your power to ensure the safety of the journalists and other staff members of the New Democrat, and their safe return to their workplace. Furthermore, IPI urges Your Excellency to lift the ban on advertising in the newspaper. IPI also urges Your Excellency to ensure that journalists working in Liberia are allowed to report freely and safely practice their profession.

We thank you for your attention

Yours sincerely,

Johann P. Fritz

International Press Institute (IPI)
Spiegelgasse 2/29
A-1010 Vienna
Tel: + 43-1-512 90 11
Fax: +43-1-512 90 14
E-mail: <mailto:ipi@freemedia.at>ipi@freemedia.at