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Print journalists barred from main Senate chambers

(CEMESP/IFEX) - The Liberian Senate has moved to ban print journalists from having access to its main chambers. The move is said to be upon the recommendation of the Senate Committee on Rules, Order and Administration.

According to a communication addressed to the Press Union of Liberia by some print journalists covering the Liberian Senate, they have been prevented from covering open deliberations at the Legislature's Upper House.

They complained that some time ago, they were "bundled out" of the Senate Chambers by the Sergeant at Arms (security officer) while attempting to enter on reportorial duties.

But the Senate has contended that its deliberation chambers are too small to host both print and broadcast journalists covering its sessions. It further suggested that print journalists follow its proceedings from the balcony.

However, some of the print journalists have counter-argued that their exclusion is meant to stop them from having first-hand information, especially photographs of the Senators who, on a number of recent occasions, have almost resorted to fistfights during sessions.

Meanwhile, CEMESP has condemned the action against print journalists by the Liberian Senate. CEMESP views the exclusion of print journalists from the main deliberation chambers as a means of censoring certain members of the media.

Some members of the Liberian Senate have recently moved to censor journalists covering their activities. On 25 August, River Gee County Senior Senator Cllr. Frederick Cherue temporarily seized the recording equipment of journalist Julius Kanubah of Star Radio, an independent Monrovia-based station. Though the journalist was recording Senate proceedings in session, Cllr. Cherue claimed he was "recording private conversations". The "private conversations" were part of an argument between another River Gee County Senator Isaac Johnson and the Senate's acting president, Lahai Lansana.

For further information on the Kanubah case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/96631

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