RSF demands information on missing journalist Hassan Bility
(RSF/IFEX) - On 4 September 2002, RSF expressed its serious concern about the fate of Hassan Bility, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned weekly newspaper "The Analyst", who is accused by the Liberian government of plotting with rebel forces of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to kill President Charles Taylor.
The organisation strongly criticised the government's attitude and called on it to respect the country's constitution and bring the journalist before a judge. Despite numerous requests since his arrest with two other people on 24 June, Bility has not appeared in court and, despite an earlier promise, the government has not allowed a Red Cross representative to see him.
The three men are being held in a secret location without formal charges, in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which states that anyone arrested must be brought before a court and charged within 48 hours.
RSF's renewed concern was prompted by the recent disappearance of the journalist's common-law wife and mother of his two children, Maria Nyenetue. On 20 August, she left Monrovia for Klay (50 km northwest of Monrovia) to go see Bility after receiving a message from him requesting money. Nyenetue set off after declining to give the money to the person who brought the message.
Bility's newspaper is very critical of President Taylor. Shortly after the journalist's arrest, Information Minister Reginald Goodridge claimed the journalist was a "central figure" among "those who have been running cells in Monrovia actively collaborating with the LURD and their supporters in the United States," with the aim of assassinating President Taylor. A LURD spokesman denied the charge.
In July and August, the authorities refused to present Bility and the two other detainees in court, as demanded by several human rights organisations and despite a habeas corpus order by Liberia's Supreme Military Court.