Liberia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Liberia

Liberia

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

73

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

29

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

23

Liberia's 1986 constitution guarantees that citizens enjoy freedom of expression, "being fully responsible for the abuse thereof." This opaque clause helped past abuses against the media carry a veneer of legitimacy. In October, a consortium of international and local rights groups collaborated with the administration to recommend legislative and policy reforms that will help Liberia draw a curtain on its dark past of repression and impunity. Under the proposed reforms, new laws would meet international standards regarding press freedom, the state-owned Liberian Broadcasting System would be transformed into a public service broadcaster, and citizens and journalists would have the right to information held by public bodies. Alternatives to imprisonment for content-related offenses, including creating effective regulatory mechanisms whereby media could publish retractions and apologies in appropriate cases, would form the framework of a new media system. By year's end, however, the government had not enacted any of the planned reforms. Journalists continued to face legal action in 2004; in several cases, charges of "criminal malevolence" were leveled against editors and remained pending in the criminal court. When staff at the New Broom newspaper refused to answer a court summons on a similar charge in June, the court ordered that the printing of the paper be halted. In February, a US$5 million lawsuit was brought by a former associate of President Charles Taylor against The Chronicle newspaper for "damages for injury to reputation."

Although the level of violence and harassment directed against the press has decreased dramatically since the ouster of Charles Taylor in 2003, some attacks continue to take place. In February, members of the former rebel group LURD assaulted Mike Jabeteh, a reporter with the private daily The Analyst; and in August, another reporter from the same paper was beaten by a police officer, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The print media, comprising some two dozen newspapers that are published with varying degrees of regularity, provide a range of opinion. However, limited printing facilities coupled with the high cost of distribution means that the reach of most newspapers is limited to the areas around the capital city of Monrovia. Most Liberians rely on radio broadcasts to receive news, and radio currently plays an important role in promoting and consolidating a culture of participation in political life. A number of private radio and television stations operate but are hindered by the irregular power supply. Access to foreign broadcasts and the Internet is unrestricted by the government but is severely limited by the dire financial situation of most Liberians. Some journalists reportedly extort money from citizens to refrain from publishing unflattering articles or accept bribes in order to publish certain stories.