Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights 
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© PD Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0803
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
Liberia

general information on the radio system

Although the foundation of Liberia was a humanitarian effort, even this reflects some of the tragedy of this country: In 1822, former slaves were able to return from North America to West Africa. In 1847, the republic of Liberia was founded. But it was only in the 1970s that the descendants of the original land owners also gained some political influence.
National radio broadcasting started in 1949 and was joined by Protestant missionary broadcaster Radio ELWA Monrovia in 1954 and a short wave relay station of the Voice of America in 1962. After the start of the Liberian civil war in 1989, these stations were destroyed in 1990. While Radio ELWA returned to the air with a local outlet, the Voice of America decided to rebuild its relay station in Sao Tomé.
In 1991 when NPFL rebel leader Charles Taylor controlled 95 per cent of the country, he used a medium wave station of the Liberian Rural Communications Network at Voinjamaa (558 kHz) and soon later the short wave station of national radio (3255 6090 kHz), while West African peace troops operated another national radio (7275 kHz). Both stations were audible in Liberia and Westafrica on short wave and at times also in Europe. The ECOMOG forces only "controlled" a small stretch of land near the capital while Taylor and other warlords "controlled" the rest of the country.
Despite of the civil war and the factional broadcasting, some private broadcasting was possible, too. In 1993 Radio Monrovia was the first private FM station on the air, and it remained on the air for some six years.
In 1996, the civil war was officially ended, and elections were called for 1997. Beside Taylor-controlled broadcasting there was only limited activity by other broadcasters, while Taylor's Radio Liberia International continued to be occasionally heard in Europe on short wave 5100 kHz.

Star Radio (1997-2000)
Building on the experience of Radio Agatashya, the Fondation Hirondelle created a peace and reconciliation radio for Liberia. Star Radio went on the air on 15 July 1997, shortly before the first democratic elections were held. It shared the facilities with Radio Monrovia. Radio Monrovia used the frequency 104 MHz for much of the day, while Star Radio provided three hours of programmes in the morning and in the evening. In addition to English, Liberian English and French news reports were prepared and broadcast in fourteen local languages. The news bulletins were also made available throughout the world on the internet. The time sharing agreement was to become a point of controversy as was the internet service.
The FM service covered about 40 percent of Liberia´s population. From 16 September 1997 to October 1998, Star also broadcast on short wave to achieve nationwide coverage and also reach Liberian refugees in neighbouring countries. Star Radio's short wave broadcasts were on the air six hours per day, at the originally scheduled times in the morning and evening. At times, they were also audible in Europe.
Although the station was started and funded with foreign help, the station had an almost completely Liberian staff. Beginning in January 1999, the management and running of the station was handed over to Star Radio's Liberian board of directors. It was planned that the station would become self-supporting in 2004 with local and international funding sources. Regular donors of the station were the development agencies of the United States, Sweden and the Netherlands.
Throughout its existence, Star Radio was subject to government pressure. On 7 January 1998, it closed Star Radio citing illegal use of frequencies as reason although Star Radio and Radio Monrovia had a time sharing contract. After pressure from foreign governments, Star Radio was able to regain the air waves. In October 1998, the Liberian government withdrew the short wave licenses of Star Radio and Roman Catholic Radio Veritas. Nonetheless, based on a 1999 survey, there were approximately 400,000 people listening to Star Radio FM because of its independent reporting. On 15 March 2000, the government closed down both Star Radio and Radio Veritas. President Taylor cited "outside influence" and "outside money" as reasons and attacked Star Radio´s internet news service as being biased against Liberian interests. It is said that Taylor was not only dissatisfied with the existence of independent media but even more dissatisfied with the poor performance of his own media in the ratings. In protest three independent newspapers and independent radio station DC 101.1 suspended operations for a day on 20 March 2000. While Radio Veritas was able to return to the air, in statements heard on Taylor's short wave service, Radio Liberia International, he re-iterated his commitment to keep Star Radio closed.

Radio Veritas
In late July 2001 the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry denied an application of Radio Veritas to resume its shortwave transmissions. For technical problems the shortwave frequency was not active when the Ministry of Posts and  Telecommunications issued its new policy, although the management of the station said it had been paying its shortwave broadcast fees up to the time of the new policy. Radio Veritas protested the ban, stating that it had paid fees to transmit on both shortwave and FM. At the time only two stations from Liberia were internationally heard: Taylors Radio Liberia International and Christian missionary radio station ELWA.
On 28 August 2001 President Taylor stated that the establishment of short wave stations under the Liberian constitution "is a privilege, not a right"[1]. Taylor also argued  that the multitude of shortwave services had given rise to some "hate messages on certain hate stations." [2] In this context, one might also regard Taylor's action as a reply to ongoing pressure to let Star Radio resume operation, the human rights station forced off the air March 2000. A Liberian citizen whom I was able to interview on the radio scene, sees much of the media under the control of Taylor and a certain submissiveness or self-censorship in the so-called independent media.
Citing the constitution, the Catholic Church filed a lawsuit against the government it has the right under the constitution to own and operate a  shortwave station in the country. Article 15, Sections a, b and c of the Liberian Constitution state:
a) Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof this right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with the Constitution.
b) The right encompasses the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to acknowledge. It includes freedom of speech and of the press, academic freedom to receive and impact knowledge and information and the right of libraries to make such knowledge available. It includes non-interference with the use of the mail, telephone and telegraph. It likewise includes the right to remain silent.
c) In pursuance of this right, there shall be no limitation on the public right to be informed about the government and its functionaries.
In January 2002 President Taylor conceded that "opposition complaints about not having access to shortwave transmitters are legitimate concerns." He, however, re-iterated that "broadcasting on shortwave was not a right, but a privilege."  As a solution to the issue Taylor proposed  shutting down the shortwave transmitter of his own Liberian Communication Network (LCN) or installing a shortwave transmitter at the government-owned Liberian Broadcasting Corporation under the control of the Elections Commission. Indeed Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh of the Liberian People’s Party had called for the turning over of LCN to the Liberia Broadcasting System to avoid conflict of interest. Dr. Tipoteh noted that it was unconstitutional for top
officials of the Liberian government to own the station. Article 90 (a) of the Liberian constitution states, "no person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest."

In a suprise development at a news conference in the Executive Mansion President Taylor on 9 February 2002 announced the "immediate" restoration of the shortwave frequency for the Catholic-run Radio Veritas. The announcement came barely 24 hours after he had declared a state of emergency in the country. President Taylor said his action was a demonstration that the state of emergency was not intended to clamp down on peaceful citizens nor on free speech and of the press. At the time of the announcement, the law suit of the Catholic Church against the July 2001 closure of the frequency was still pending at the circuit court.
Radio Veritas Station Manager Ledgerhood Rennie said he was pleased by the President's gesture to allow the station run its shortwave frequency. He said it is an opportunity for the Liberian people to have access to information and that the station looks forward to working with all sphere of the society.
Prior to the Radio Veritas shortwave issue, the Government had in March 2000 ordered the closure of Star Radio "until its ownership and management structure were transferred from the international media NGO Hirondelle to a Liberian-run media institution". The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) welcomed the restoration of the short-wave frequencies to Radio Veritas and expressed continued interest in the re-opening of Star Radio. [3]
On 22 August 2002 Radio Veritas increased its broadcast time on both FM 97.8 MHz (5 kW) and newly activated shortwave 5470 kHz from 12 to 18 hours a day. According to the station's promo, programmes on civic education, human rights, HIV/Aids, tropical issues and news would make up some of the many informative programmess that have been planned.

2003 Fall of the Taylor government
Despite the arms embargo, the former government of Charles Taylor, the Guinea-backed rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy and a second rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, all of which have a dismal human rights record, were able to obtain weapons with the help of regional allies. In a final rebel offensive in July 2003, in which housing areas and civilian targets were indiscriminately shelled, Radio Veritas was also hit and silenced.
On 11 August 2003, with rebel fighters advancing on the capital Monrovia, Charles Taylor stepped down and boarded a jet to Nigeria. Taylor's departure paved the way for peace talks between rebels and a caretaker government, led by former Vice-President Moses Blah. A pact was signed on 18 August between the two sides, ending 14 years of almost continuous war in Liberia. A transitional government of national unity headed by Chairman Gyude Bryant was installed on October 14, but civil authority was yet to be extended beyond Monrovia. Ex-rebel militias continued to occupy most of the country’s rich forest and mineral zones in the west and southeast.. The warring factions have committed to disarm, but  the potential for renewed hostilities remained.

Turmoil at the broadcasting stations
As Liberia attempts to recover from years of civil war, the official broadcasting scene of Liberia is falling apart.
In October 2003, former Liberian President Charles Taylor's Kiss FM was closed following an evition notice from the owner of the premises charging that the management owed him 80,000 USD in back rent. The station's equipment was taken to former President Taylor's White Flower residence in Congo Town. Kiss FM was Taylor's main radio voice, but he also controlled the Liberia Communications Network, which ran an FM station in Monrovia and a shortwave radio station Radio Liberia International in Totota, about 90 km north of the capital, a newspaper and television station. The minimum wage at Taylor's former media network was 60 dollars, against a minimum salary for public sector employees under Taylor of about 10 dollars. Public sectors were owed nearly two years' back pay by former government.
At the state-run Liberia  Broadcasting System, one group of employees opposes Director-General designate J Allison Barco and cites financial malpractice by Barco. The employees claim that Search for Common Ground (Talking Drum Studio) presented LBS with USD 500 and three drums of fuel oil under its emergency support programme to radio stations, but that Barco diverted these to his personal use. They also allege that several pieces of studio equipment were donated to LBS by the BBC, but that Barco sold the equipment to a local radio station. According to Liberian newspaper The News, Barco told them the money and equipment in question were used as intended, though he did not provide documentary evidence, adding that he did not obtain receipts for the fuel because he bought it in "bits" from street sellers. For his part, Barco claims the group opposing his takeover are "a handful of people who do not have the support of the entire work force at the LBS". Barco was even barred from entering the LBS compound,  prompting the UN forces to intervene. At the same time, the aggrieved employees had gathered at the National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) to petition Speaker George Dweh to rejecting the appointment of Barco.
LBS is also riven by factional infighting amongst groups of employees. In a press release on 26 October, a group calling itself the Concerned Employees of the LBS expressed dismay that some colleagues have threatened to confiscate the station's equipment in demand for their salary arrears. The group said that while they acknowledge the salary issue, it was an unprofessional attitude. (c) Radio Netherlands Media Network 28. October 2003

2003 Star Radio reborn
In November 2003, Liberia's transitional government lifted a ban on Star Radio, the independent radio station closed down on 15 March 2000 by former president Charles Taylor for broadcasting "hate messages against the Liberian government". President of the transitional government, Gyude Bryant, stressed on 3 November 2003 "that Star Radio had a key role to play in the "development of communication and enhancing the integrity of our media industry." Star Radio was established in 1997 by the Swiss-based Hirondelle Foundation to provide a voice for all Liberians and pro-democracy institutions in the run-up to elections that brought Taylor to power. Prior to the closure of its FM station in Monrovia, Star Radio had already been banned from broadcasting on shortwave.

Taylor's case still pending
Although Taylor was indicted for war crimes by the Special Court in Sierra Leone his exile has so far protected him from the jurisdiction of the special Court. However, pressure is growing for Nigeria to hand Taylor over to the Special Court where he faces charges of war crimes for his alleged assistance to the Sierra Leonean rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Taylor was accused of supplying the RUF with weapons in return for diamonds and plundering national timber resources for his own enrichment.
Until a nationwide authority can be restored, the UN will not lift a ban on exporting rough diamonds and timber.
These sanctions were imposed in May 2001, when Taylor was still in office, along with an arms embargo and travel ban on select government officials. Experts have been asked by the UN Security Council to monitor the sanctions for a further six months. Their recommendations are due in a report by 10 December.

Liberia Institute of Journalism to start Internet radio service
In September 2004, the Liberia Institute of Journalism has started testing Internet broadcasts of its radio station Radio-LIJ FM 96.6. The  Institute has been involved in the training of journalists since it was established in 1999. LIJ Executive Director Vinicius Hodges said that going live on line would afford Liberians in the Diaspora information about developments in their native land.
In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, Liberia was listed as no. 123 of 167 countries surveyed.

UN distributes wind-up radio sets in Liberia
In December 2004, the United Nations launched a nationwide distribution of wind-up radio sets in Liberia in an effort to accelerate the peace process and recovery. "This is community empowerment. This is real recovery for the future," Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Jacques Paul Klein said. "We're also contributing to the reconciliation process as the dissemination of hate and destruction is undermined by exposure to the world of information. When people hear the truth, they put their evil ways aside," he added.
The radios, which can wind-up and do not require batteries, are part of a humanitarian donation programme from The Oneness - Hearts, Tears and Smiles, a non-governmental organization (NGO) with a network of volunteers around the world. In addition to the radios, the organization has donated medical equipment and supplies, drugs and computers to Liberia. Mr. Klein said that as the country steadily approached national elections in October 2005, the radios would increase people's access to information, essential to Liberia's full transition to a free and open society.
With communities now able to access valuable educational programmes, he encouraged local leaders to use Radio UNMIL broadcast by the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to exchange ideas and provide updates on development. "We will record your messages and they will be on the air so that people can hear your messages," he said.
With over 75 per cent illiteracy, radio is a vital means of transmitting news in Liberia. The new programme seeks to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation process through civic education broadcasts. Targeted beneficiaries include health facilities, orphanages and community groups, including elders' and women's groups.

Human Rights Groups: Taylor Stirring Up New West African Trouble
Human rights advocates are renewing accusations that former Liberian leader Charles Taylor is creating instability in West Africa from exile in Nigeria, where they say he has built an illicit financial network. They are asking that he be turned over to a war crimes court before October elections in Liberia. New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Washington-based Coalition for International Justice are two of the groups that allege there is evidence of new wrongdoing by Mr. Taylor. They are asking for international pressure, including from the U.N. Security Council, to force Nigeria to hand over the former Liberian leader to the Special Court for War Crimes in Sierra Leone.
Mr. Taylor denies charges that he funded rebel fighters during Sierra Leone's civil war. In August 2003, Nigeria's government gave Mr. Taylor sanctuary to end Liberia's civil war, and asked him not to meddle in regional affairs. It said it would only consider handing him over to an elected Liberian government.
But the co-author of a report for the Coalition for International Justice, Shaoli Sarkar, accuses Mr. Taylor of getting money into and out of his home in southeastern Nigeria to fund criminal activities in neighbouring countries. She alleges that some of his income is from the Liberian Lone Star cell phone network. Numbers were previously routed through Monaco in a complicated arrangement established by Mr. Taylor. Numbers now have a Liberian country code, but Mrs. Sarkar says Mr. Taylor is still behind the company. Her report alleges that the wives of Mr. Taylor's confidantes are taking money to and from his villa, bypassing U.N. travel sanctions on
their husbands. Some of the candidates in Liberia's October presidential election have admitted receiving funding from Mr. Taylor. All these activities, Mrs. Sarkar says, violate Nigeria's terms for Mr. Taylor's asylum. On 24 May, prosecutors for the Special Court in Sierra Leone told the United Nations Security Council that Mr. Taylor is working with the al-Qaida terror network and wants to destabilize West Africa.
A human rights activist in Liberia, Ezekiel Pajibo, says Mr. Taylor should be handed over to the Sierra Leone court before the Liberian election. He says the exiled leader is trying to influence the vote so the next government will not force him to trial. Earlier in May, the U.S House of Representatives approved a resolution demanding that Mr. Taylor be turned over to the court. nder this type of pressure, Nigerian officials have started to loosen their stance. One Nigerian official at the United Nations was recently quoted as saying Mr. Taylor will not be allowed to continue taking cover in Nigeria if it is proven he has violated the terms of his asylum. (VOANews.com Headlines 25 May 2005)

2005 Star Radio: Short wave relays from Ascension
Star Radio
Old CID Road, 
Mamba Point, 
Monrovia, Liberia.
starradio_liberia @ yahoo.com
schedule for Summer 2006
0700-0800: 9525 (250 kW, 27°) English
2100-2200: 11965 (250 kW, 27°) English
schedule for Winter 2006/07
0700-0800:  9525 (250 kW, 27°) English
schedule for Summer 2007 Winter 2007/08
0700-0730: 9525 (250 kW, 27°) English
Star Radio Liberia uses facilities of  VT Communications on Ascension island.

On 25 May 2005, Star Radio was reopened after having been forcibly closed down by the then President Charles Taylor in March 2000. It currently broadcasts for 17 hours a day bringing News, Current Affairs and a  variety of Feature programs to the people of Monrovia and its environs. STAR radio is a Liberian not for profit organization, operated in partnership with the Hirondelle Foundation _ Media for Peace & Human Dignity, Switzerland.
On 12 July 2005, Star Radio Liberia began short wave broadcasts to reach the entire population of Liberia and the neighboring countries. "From now on people in distant parts of Liberia and elsewhere in the region, until now deprived of accurate and credible information, will be able to hear about the latest political sporting and other socio- economic and cultural developments. They will also be able to send messages and greet each other over the airwaves" said Robin White, the Hirondelle Foundation's Project Director in Monrovia.

In February 2008 Star Radio Monrovia reorganised its website: "We are pleased to announce that we have made several changes to our website to make it more informative and easier to use. Please take a minute to try out our new "one-click" streaming of our radio shows! Also, we have dropped the pay- for-use requirement for our audio files. Now all of our audio files are available free to members and membership is free. We are looking forward to making more improvements in the near future. Please support our work with an on-line donation. STAR radio is facing a difficult financial situation. We appreciate your support! Sincerely, Management, STAR radio Liberia.  <http://starradio.org.lr/> "
 

[1] [2] as quoted by Radio Netherlands Media Network 28. August 2001
[3] according to several news items in The NEWS (Monrovia) via http://allafrica.com/stories/200202130373.html

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