Read CPJ’s protest letter to President Charles Taylor of Liberia.
New York, March 15, 2000 — Citing public security concerns, the Liberian government shut down the privately owned Star Radio station and suspended Radio Veritas, a religious station owned by the Catholic Church.
A statement from the office of President Charles Taylor defended the decision to silence the two broadcasters, referring to “the rising incidence of inflammatory comments and radio programming filling the airways in recent times.” The government accused “agents provocateurs” of using Star Radio and Radio Veritas to create security problems in a country still recovering from a brutal eight-year civil war.
In the morning hours of March 15, heavily armed police officers in riot gear occupied the Star Radio compound and sealed its gate, according to CPJ’s sources in Monrovia. Star Radio’s Internet news service has also been interrupted.
Under the command of Director of Police Paul Mulbah, the troops seized documents and broadcast equipment, and also manhandled journalists and technicians. Several armed officers of the Police Special Operation Division remained posted in front of the two radio station buildings.
Star Radio is managed by Fondation Hirondelle, a Swiss non-governmental organization, with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Radio Veritas is owned by the Roman Catholic Church. The government statement said that Radio Veritas could resume operation if it provided a written guarantee that it would broadcast only religious material.
Today’s action leaves only two independent radio outlets in Liberia: the privately-owned station Ducor, and ELWA, a religious broadcaster owned by Baptist missionaries. Two other stations, KISS FM and Radio Liberia International, are the private property of President Taylor, who was elected in 1997 after rebels under his command claimed victory in a bloody civil war that Taylor himself started on Christmas Eve, 1989.