Liberian Journalists' Lives in Imminent Danger

Journalists at The New Democrat newspaper in Liberia have been threatened by Government officials and security operatives, forcing many to flee their homes and change hideouts. Others have resigned to avert repercussions which could mean death, arrest or imprisonment.

The Government claims the journalists are sending out information on the Internet detrimental to its image.

President Charles Taylor, reacting to rumors that he killed his Vice President, recently threatened to be "ferocious" with the paper which published an article on speculations around Vice President Enoch Dogolea's mysterious death. President Taylor's declaration of "ferocity" is seen as a license for his notorious security forces to move against the journalists. Several persons suspected of being against the Government, including Madam Norwai Flomo, Samuel Dokie and three members of his family, have in the past disappeared without trace.

All advertisements to the paper have been stopped, and those wishing to advertise in the paper have been warned or face the Liberian government wrath.

Offices of The New Democrat were burned down in April 1996 allegedly upon the orders of President Taylor. Immediately following the destruction of paper's facilities, President Taylor held a press conference at which he asked, "Is the New Democrat still around?" Following the 1997 elections, the Government rejected the paper's application to commence publication. But local and international campaigns led to the granting of permission. Since then, journalists at the paper have been placed under virtual siege, leading to many arrests and interrogations.

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