Liberian Police Close Newspaper

By: Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Police shut down an independent newspaper Thursday and have arrested a leading human rights lawyer, both vocal critics of the government.

The ban on the independent Analyst newspaper was permanent, police chief Paul Mulbah said.

He refused to give reasons for the closure. “The paper is closed and will not print again. This is a government order,” Mulbah told The Associated Press.

Information Minister Reginald Goodridge said the government “could not comment until the matter is investigated.” He would not say what was under investigation.

The paper’s managing editor, Stanley Seakor, said Mulbah told him the closure was in connection to the state of emergency declared in February after rebels fighting a two-year civil war reached the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia.

The Analyst was closed that month after publishing articles critical of the state of emergency, but was reopened a week later after pressure on the government from civil society groups.

The state of emergency has not been lifted.

President Charles Taylor, a powerful warlord in Liberia’s 1989-1996 civil war, is highly sensitive about criticism and long has had strained relations with journalists.

Thursday’s edition of the Analyst ran a story about a dispute between Taylor and Liberia’s most famous soccer player, George Weah.

Weah, once voted world soccer player of the year, has said that he will not return to Liberia because of alleged threats to his security by Taylor.

The newspaper also ran a story critical of the state of emergency.

Police are also investigating lawyer Tiawan Gongloe — who was detained late Wednesday — for making a statement that was allegedly “inimical to state security,” Mulbah said. Mulbah declined to give details about the statement.

However, Gongloe, who is an outspoken critic of Taylor’s government, has recently been involved in a dispute with an influential member of the ruling National Patriotic Party whom he is alleged to have described as head of Taylor’s “cheering squad.”

The party member, Marie Washington, has said the remarks could make her vulnerable to government opponents.

Gongloe has denied making the comments.

“I can assure you that his rights will be protected and he will go through the due process within 48 hours in line with the constitution,” Mulbah said.

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