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Liberian Judge Warns Re-Opened Radio Stations

Liberian police equipped with riot gear stand guard outside the headquarters of the National Elections Commission as the NEC prepared to announce the first partial presidential election results, in Monrovia, Liberia, Oct. 13, 2011.

A judge in Liberia has ordered the re-opening of four pro-opposition radio stations that were shut down by the government one day before run-off elections.

Judge James Zota said Tuesday that the stations should be re-opened, but warned their licenses would be revoked if they repeated what he called the spread of "hate messages" likely to cause insurrection.

The government closed the stations earlier this month after accusing them of inciting violence.

Censorship accusations

Several international rights groups criticized the closure, including Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Press Union of Liberia President Peter Quaqua said he thinks it was an attempt to scare the media away from reporting critical issues.

"I think it's further intended to intimidate the media and subject the media into self-censorship, which for me speaks negatively to the idea of press freedom and the professed desire of the government for a free press," said Quaqua.

Election dispute

Quaqua, who was present at the court hearing, also criticized the judge for not making evidence in the case available to the lawyers representing the radio stations.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the incumbent candidate, won more than 90 percent of the votes in this month's run-off election against rival Winston Tubman.

Tubman's opposition Congress for Democratic Change, or CDC, boycotted the run-off, alleging cases of fraud in the first round of voting.

International election observers have said the both elections were credible and met international standards.