Liberia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Liberia

Liberia

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

75

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

33

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

23

Press freedom reached its 2003 low point in July when fighting between government and rebel forces shut down virtually all independent media outlets. However, conditions improved once President Charles Taylor was ousted in August. The transitional government that took power in October promised greater freedom for the press. Liberia's constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press, but these rights have not been respected in practice. In June, the director of the National Communication Bureau closed six amateur FM radio stations saying that their "motives and scopes of operations" were "not clear." The government had reportedly previously authorized the stations to operate. Taylor's ministry of information required publications to register with the government annually and had used this power to close antigovernment publications in past years. In October the transition government's new minister of information announced that the requirement would be relaxed. Physical threats from government and antigovernment forces, censorship, and President Taylor's near monopoly on broadcast coverage outside the capital severely restricted independent media coverage as the country's civil conflict intensified in 2003. In June, a reporter from The News went into hiding after being attacked and robbed by armed men wearing the uniform of President Taylor's Anti-Terrorist Unit. In July, a French photojournalist was seriously wounded during fighting between government and rebel forces. As fighting increased, the Taylor government ordered all Liberian media outlets to clear stories on the rebellion with the ministry of information prior to publication or broadcast. With Taylor's ouster, independent newspapers began reappearing in the capital and the three-year-old ban on the popular independent station Star Radio was lifted. Conditions for journalists remained dangerous outside Monrovia at year's end. Media outlets face difficulty recovering from economic damage suffered during the conflict. Several media outlets, including Talking Drum Studios and Radio Veritas, were looted or damaged during the fighting, losing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of valuable equipment.