Liberian Dissidents Accuse BBC of "Unfair" Reporting
Sept 4, 2000

The ongoing fighting in northern Liberia is now characterized with claims and counterclaims while the dissidents are alleging that they are finding it impossible to counter Liberian Government's claims on the BBC Focus on Africa and related programs widely used by President Taylor's rebels, National Patriotic Front of Liberia, during the seven-year civil war and now.

"Zorzor is firmly under our control. Jonathan Paye Layleh is feeding the BBC with well-calculated misinformation and Taylor is deceiving the Liberian people. We have called three times last week to the BBC to give our side of the story, but they have refused to air our versions, instead only broadcasting what is coming from Taylor's propaganda machine in Monrovia. We know that Peleleh is an original NPFL (President Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia) member. The problem is whether the BBC knows this", a disappointed and angry spokesman of the dissidents (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD) told The Perspective in a telephone interview from West Africa.

He said Zorzor has been occupied for weeks by LURD forces. "We challenge the Taylor people to step there." The spokesman even doubted that Paye Layleh filed his August 30 report to the BBC from the outskirts of Voinjama. At the time, Paye Layleh said he was waiting for government's helicopter to fly him to Voinjama and Zorzor. "What happened to that plan and why BBC is not telling us the reason why Paye Layleh did not come to Voinjama and Zorzor? Let Paye Layleh enter Voinjama and Zorzor to report directly to the BBC for his own credibility instead of remaining in Monrovia, using Taylor's satellite phone, and claiming to be in Lofa. Did the BBC give Paye Layleh a satellite phone? If not, how did he get it to file reports? We will protect him if he comes to Zorzor. But Taylor is using the same strategy he used against Doe - relying on the BBC to fight his psychological war. We think this is unfair. The BBC has the responsibility to air all sides. They cannot decide now not to listen to rebels when they gave all their ears and microphones to Taylor during the seven-year war and even now", he said.

Although the Government said it had flown "foreign" journalists to its occupied areas, only the BBC stringer Paye Layleh is filing reports. No other foreign journalist has reported or confirmed Government claims. The local media have been barred from reporting on the fighting without clearance from the ministries of defense and information.