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Catholic Church sues Liberia

Catholic Church leaders in Liberia are suing the government for banning shortwave broadcasts by church-run Radio Veritas, calling it a violation of constitutionally guaranteed free speech.

Liberia's government has yet to respond to the lawsuit, but an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that authorities were assembling a team of "crack lawyers" to fight the suit.

The government wrote the station management in July, withdrawing the station's authorization to broadcast on shortwave frequencies. The move leaves a pro-government station, Radio Liberia, as the only one transmitting news via shortwave that can be heard outside the country.

President Charles Taylor upheld the ban last week, telling journalists there would be no other shortwave stations in the West African country. "The use of shortwave is a privilege, not a right," he said.

The church lawsuit accuses the government of violating Liberia's constitution, which states, "Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof, the right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by the government."

Radio Veritas and another independent station, Star Radio, were shut down by government last year on the grounds they were "preaching filthy to the public about the government."