Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 18 (of 30)
Political Environment: 25 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 22 (of 30)
Total Score: 65 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)

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 during his presidency. While the situation has undeniably improved with the recently elected administration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, threats to freedom of the press are still not uncommon. Hopes for a media reform bill that would improve legal protections for media practitioners and a more progressive freedom of information bill have dwindled. Both were introduced into the legislature in 2005 and neither have made much subsequent progress. Constitutional guarantees for access to information are vague; access to budgetary and financial information, in particular, remains difficult owing to bureaucratic inefficiencies and frequent requests for additional payment from civil servants involved. Strict libel laws are also still in place; in 2007 these were used by one media practitioner to prosecute a number of his colleagues. In October, Ambrose Nmah, the general manager of Renaissance Communication Incorporated, sued six other journalists in a variety of media houses for libel. This followed their simultaneous publication of a statement calling on the Liberian Press Union to investigate Nmah following comments he made on a radio program justifying the use of force by the police against journalists. While no progress had been made in the trial at year's end, Nmah is demanding $10,000 for the damage done to his reputation.

The media also faced threats from a number of different directions. Throughout 2007, journalists and the media houses they worked for were threatened, harassed, beaten, detained, censored, banned, and accused of broadcasting hate messages. The government played a role in a number of these, most notably its announcement in October that from that point on the president's press secretary and the ministry of information would select the individual reporters who would cover the president. The rest of the media would be banned from doing so. Earlier, in February the government banned the private newspaper The Independent for a full year after it published an explicit photo of the minister of presidential affairs having sex with two women in 2006. After receiving a number of death threats and forced to go into hiding, the paper's editor, Sam Dean, took the issue to court and eventually won. The paper began publishing again in May. As in 2006, a number of journalists – this time both local and international – were harassed or beaten by the police of the president's security forces in 2007. In September, while attempting to cover the arrival of the Sierra Leonean president to Liberia for the signing of a non-aggression treaty, security forces harassed a number of reporters, including correspondents with the BBC, RFI, and Reuters as well a local journalists. Similarly, in September a journalist with the Daily Observer was beaten and detained by police while trying to cover one of their drug busting operations. These and other similar incidents throughout the year seriously threaten the success and stability that has been achieved over the last few years.

Despite these attacks, Liberian journalists still regularly report critically about the government and other politicians and the country's media certainly offers a diversity of views and perspectives. Within the capital there are about a dozen newspapers publishing, one of which is owned by the state, and 15 or so independent radio station. Bribery and corruption is an issue as they payment for journalists is so little. Access to the internet is unrestricted by the government but is severely limited by the dire financial situation of most Liberians to less than 0.5 percent of the population.

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