Liberia ALERT: Journalist attacked

Stanley McGill, a journalist working with the independent The News newspaper was on Tuesday May 27, 2003, attacked by three armed men wearing uniforms of the Presidential elite guard, the Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU).

McGill had just returned from work at about 22:45 GMT when his assailants, who had apparently been trailing him, accosted him at gunpoint, robbed him of personal effects, and left with a “promise” to “get back”. This is the second attack on journalist Stanley McGill by men wearing state security uniforms. In April 2002, armed men suspected to belong to the ATU attacked McGill, assaulted him, and made away with his transistor radio and cellular phone.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is worried about the blatant abuse, at the least pretext, of the freedom of expression rights of Liberians; and in particular, the persistent threats and attacks on journalists and the private media in the country. On December 14, 2002, five ATU men attacked journalist Throble Suah of The Inquirer newspaper and tortured him until he went unconscious. His tormentors accused him of publishing stories that sought to embarrass the government. Mr Suah is still hospitalised in Accra, Ghana, and is undergoing physiotherapy for “sensory and motor dysfunctions.”

In April 2003, the government imposed a ban on public preaching. A statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Justice, Charles Mataley, claimed that the measure was “for the sake of public safety.” Again, only a week ago, six FM radio stations were shut down because according to the Director of National Communication, Emmanuel Todo, their “motives and scope of operations …were not clear to the government.”

The MFWA calls on the government of President Charles Taylor to appreciate the democratic rights of all persons in Liberia to the fundamental freedoms of thought and expression and to guarantee the security of journalists in their exercise of those rights.

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