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Police forcefully close community radio station for 24 hours over coverage of labour dispute

(CEMESP/IFEX) - On 13 December 2007, the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Justice, unlawfully closed down Stone FM, a community radio station located in Harbel, approximately 35 miles from Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

The premises of the radio station were sealed by a squad of officers of the Liberian National Police led by Captain Suzanna Blackie, commander of the Margibi county police detachment.

Stone FM station manager James King told CEMESP that the uniformed police officers, some of whom were armed with pistols, stormed the radio station and ordered the reporters to leave.

He said the police action traumatised a child broadcaster who was on-air at the time.

The station was accused of broadcasting "hit messages" against the government of Liberia and authorities of the Firestone Rubber Plantation in the wake of a strike action by employees of Firestone.

The employees' spokesperson, Eripmah Caesar, allegedly used the radio station to incite his fellow workmates to stay away from work until the management of Firestone recognizes their new leadership.

However, the station manager denies the government's accusation. He challenged the government to produce a recording of what the authorities consider "hit messages".

King described the closure of his radio station by the Ministry of Justice as "unfortunate".

On the night of 15 December, the government of Liberia reopened the radio station, following the intervention of freedom of expression advocates.

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