Dr. Charles Ghankay Taylor
Office of the President, Capitol Hill
1000 Monrovia 10
Fax: 00 231 226-076
Vienna, 17 July 2000
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
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
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
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
Johann P. Fritz
International Press Institute (IPI)
Tel: + 43-1-512 90 11
Fax: +43-1-512 90 14