New York, October 18, 2011--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday's arson attack against a Liberian radio station and threats made against another radio station's journalists in response to their coverage of Liberia's presidential elections.
At around 3 a.m. on Monday, unidentified assailants in a red pickup threw a Molotov cocktail at Love FM, a station favorable to main opposition party Congress for Democratic Change, Jallah Griefield, news director of the station's parent company Love Media Group, told Agence France-Presse. The station went off the air for three hours and resumed broadcasting since the technical studios were damaged but not the station's transmitters, said Paul Mulbah, the station's owner, according to press reports.
Griefield told CPJ that the station had received threatening text messages and phone calls over its favorable coverage of the Congress for Democratic Change, the party contesting incumbent President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's bid for a second six-year term in this month's polls. Nine opposition parties have contested the official results of the October 11 first round of voting that placed Sirleaf, a 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, ahead of Congress' candidate, Winston Tubman, on the basis of allegations of poll-rigging, according to news reports. A run-off was scheduled for November 8.
In a Monday press statement, the Press Union of Liberia also expressed alarm at the harassment and intimidation of two talk-show hosts of pro-Sirleaf station Truth FM over their coverage of the elections. Unidentified assailants attempted to break into the home of Truth FM journalist Smith Toby early Monday, according to news reports, while his colleague, Patrick Honnah, reported receiving threatening phone calls and text messages, Press Union President Peter Quaqua told CPJ.
"Liberians have a right to hear reports and commentary on the full range of political opinions in the country," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "We condemn attempts to restrict that right through violence and intimidation against journalists. We urge the police to conduct a timely and transparent investigation into these attacks and threats and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Liberia National Police spokesman George Bardue told CPJ today that one suspect for the arson attack on Love FM was in custody. Monday's attack followed a Saturday arson attack on the headquarters of Johnson Sirleaf's Unity Party, according to news reports.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The third paragraph of this alert has been corrected to reflect that Liberia's presidential term is six years.]