Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Liberia’s 1986 constitution guarantees citizens the right of free expression but makes them “fully responsible for the abuse thereof.”
- After much campaigning and several years of discussion, a Freedom of Information Act was finally passed in 2008. Two other draft media laws—one to establish an independent broadcasting regulator and another to transform the state broadcaster into a public service broadcaster—were introduced in the legislature in 2008, but they did not pass before the end of the year.
- On a number of occasions in 2008, judges abused their power to punish journalists who had been critical of them. For example, in April a judge summoned a newspaper editor to court to face contempt charges for publishing an article that criticized him, and in October another judge threatened to imprison journalists who misspelled his name.
- In September, the Senate moved to ban print journalists from the floor of the chamber, ostensibly because there was not enough room there for both print and broadcast journalists. The ban has effectively limited print journalists’ access to important proceedings. Journalists were also required to obtain accreditation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to cover its proceedings, despite the fact that they are open hearings which other members of the public can attend freely.
- Incidents of harassment and intimidation of journalists continued unabated and largely unpunished in 2008. Moreover, the large majority of these attacks came from government sources, primarily individual members of parliament who were displeased with coverage they had received. In one instance, a lawmaker and a number of her associates forcibly entered the office of a radio station and harassed journalists for airing a caller’s critical comments about her policies. Journalists also continue to face harsh libel laws.
- Reporters commonly accept payment from individuals covered in their stories, and the placement of a story in a paper or radio show can often be bought and influenced by outside interests.
- Newspaper distribution is limited to the capital, and literacy rates remain low, meaning most Liberians rely on radio broadcasts. There were 15 independent radio stations in Monrovia and 24 local stations outside the capital.
- Access to foreign broadcasts and the internet is not restricted by the government, though internet usage is limited to less than 1 percent of the population due to cost, literacy, and infrastructural barriers.