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Five Detained Journalists Released

April 16, 1988

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) _ Five journalists arrested recently in a government crackdown on the news media were released Friday after a 90-minute meeting with President Samuel Doe.

The meeting took place after the Press Union of Liberia threatened to file a court suit challenging the detentions of the journalists and the government ban of two newspapers.

Lamini Waritay, president of the Press Union, said no decision had been made on whether to pursue the court action. ″We have not ruled out legal measures but since we see this (the release) as a goodwill measure we feel we have some room to maneuver,″ he said.

No details were available on Doe’s meeting with the journalists.

About a half-hour before the five were released, Information Minister Emmanuel Bowier told The Associated Press he was unaware any journalists had been arrested.

After being freed, the five met briefly at the offices of the independent Observor newspaper.

Isaac Bantu, a reporter for the banned Footprints Today newspaper said he was all right but had suffered a leg injury while in detention.

Bantu, who does free-lance work for AP and the British Broadcasting Corp., was detained Monday along with four other Footprints Today journalists. Last week the government ordered the closure of the Sun Times newspaper.

In the interview, Bowier said, ″Up to the last two weeks ... we had the freest press on the continent of Africa and no one can dispute this. But we cannot have the press ... inciting people, talking about secret killings, kinds of situations that do not happen here.″

Last week a former Doe aide, David Clarke, testified in court that he and five other defendants took part in the ritual killing of two boys so that parts of their bodies could be used to make a potion to improve the killers’ political future.

News reports of that case were criticized by some officials. Earlier, Bowier claimed journalists had misrepresented his remarks about the death in police custody of an alleged coup plotter.

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