Country Summary

During April’s factional fighting, both sides in the conflict--Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and Roosevelt Johnson’s United Liberation Movement (ULIMO)--menaced Liberia’s private press. Intent on preventing critical reporting about their activities, factional partisans chased local journalists--especially those working as stringers for international news organizations--into hiding or exile, and conducted a reign of abductions, threats and assaults.

In an effort to silence the local press, arsonists looted and torched the editorial offices of all the independent newspapers, including the Inquirer, Daily News, New Democrat, Daily Observer , and The News. Intruders ransacked the offices and burned the transmitters of all of the independent radio stations, including those operated by religious organizations. The offices of the outspoken Press Union of Liberia were looted, riddled with bullets and littered with shell casings. An arson attack on the privately owned Sabanoh Printing Press, the largest and most viable printer in the country, sent its owner into exile and halted production of publications for months.

The only media spared in the fighting were the NPFL’s KISS-FM radio station and The Patriot newspaper. Equipment looted from privately owned media resurfaced, shortly after the fighting died down, fully operational at KISS-FM and The Patriot.

In early August, the Inquirer became the first independent newspaper to resume publication under extremely challenging conditions; the newspaper is currently being produced by candlelight on two used typewriters. All of Liberia’s newspapers are now back in circulation, and journalists have again become targets for harassment.

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