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Authorities announce media restrictions for coverage of president; three journalists face legal action for article criticising the courts

(CEMESP/IFEX) - The Government of Liberia, through the Executive Mansion Press Bureau and the Ministry of Information has imposed what has been described as "media censorship" on the independent media in Liberia.

The disclosure was made on 1 October 2007 at the regular press conference hosted by Presidential press Secretary Cyrus Badio.

Mr. Badio said his bureau will collaborate with the Ministry of Information to identify selected reporters to cover the Presidency.

Information Minister Laurence Bropleh recently announced that the Government of Liberia was contemplating the selection of specific photo journalists and reporters for photographing and covering information from the presidency on behalf of the rest of the journalists in Liberia.

The Minister's statement came in the wake of recent scuffle at the Roberts International Airport in Liberia, which left several journalists brutalised by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's bodyguards.

Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has condemned the move by the Government of Liberia to censor the independent media.

The PUL reacted by expressing dismay over what state security men term the "ruthless posture" of journalists.

The Union also expressed sadness over President Sirleaf's remarks following the incident, saying that the journalists were aggressive in the discharge of their duties.

The Union maintained that the President's pronouncement fueled the intimidation of journalists and opens the floodgate for the persecution of media practitioners as a remedy for due process of law.

In a separate case, on 28 September 2007, the Criminal Court "C" at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia, Liberia held three Liberian journalists for contempt of the court.

The court presided over by judge J. Boima Kontoe ordered the clerk of the court to issue a writ of summons for journalists Precious Seboe of the "News" newspaper, Abbas Dolley of the "New Democrat" newspaper and Alesia Anderson of the "New Vision" newspaper.

The journalists were summoned by the court for their reports in the 27 September 2007 edition of their respective newspapers, in which it was disclosed that former Liberian Transitional Government chairman Gyude Bryant's corruption case record had disappeared from the court's file.

The judge also disclosed that the publications have caused embarrassment to the court.

Appearing before the court on 28 September 2007, journalist Precious Seboe pleaded not guilty, following the reading of a writ of summons issued to her.

The defense council for the journalists, Cllr. Daku Mulbah, pleaded for clemency because according to him, it would portray a bad signal for the country if the world heard that journalists are been placed behind bars for reporting on the activities of the court.

The court has given a 72-hour ultimatum for the newspapers to retract the reports or pay a fine of US$100 each.

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