Liberia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Liberia

Liberia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

64

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

22

Liberia's 1986 constitution guarantees that citizens enjoy freedom of expression, "being fully responsible for the abuse thereof." This opaque clause helped the Charles Taylor regime harass the media with a semblance of legitimacy. However, the clause has not been implemented in 2005 by either the transition government or the elected government of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf with the intent to abuse the rights of journalists. In October 2004, Liberia held a National Conference on Media Law and Policy Reform, during which the participants recommended that the government create an independent regulatory body and adopt more progressive freedom of information legislation. Unfortunately, by year's end neither of these legal reforms had been implemented, but a freedom of information bill adhering to the recommendations of the conference is currently being drafted in the legislature. Nonetheless, access to government information, particularly budget and financial issues, remains difficult owing in large part to the persistence of a disorganized government infrastructure. Strict libel laws also remain an issue, illustrated by an episode in March when a Monrovian court ordered the closure of the private weekly Forum Newspaper, a $200 fine, and the arrest of the newspaper's entire editorial staff for ignoring several court summonses in a libel case.

Wide and relatively unhindered reporting was permitted for both international and local journalists during the November presidential elections, although the ability of local journalists to report accurately and fairly is still restricted by a lack of journalistic training and their inexperience to date with free and fair elections. Nonetheless, in preparation for the election, the minister of information announced in September that all foreign journalists not employed by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) would be required to register with the ministry, particularly during the course of the election. Attacks on and harassment of journalists have decreased significantly from 2004, and no journalist has been jailed in Liberia since 2003. The only significant incidents of physical intimidation were carried out by disappointed pro