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Government halts publication of the "New Broom" over allegations of non-registration

(CEMESP/IFEX) - The government of Liberia has, "with immediate effect," halted the publication of the "New Broom", a weekly local newspaper owned and operated by journalist Roland Worwee.

Liberian Information Minister Laurence Bropleh told a news conference on 27 February 2009 that the government had halted the paper's publication because it was not registered and therefore operating illegally. He told the conference that Liberia was "a country of laws" and would not allow any institution to operate illegally.

The minister said the government had instructed all printing houses in the country not to print any edition of the "New Broom."

The newspaper's publisher, Roland Worwee, has denied the allegations, however, saying he has already notified freedom of expression and press freedom institutions in the country regarding the government's action. He told CEMESP that several people, including government officials, had complained about the paper's alleged "ethical transgressions."

Worwee said the closure of the newspaper by the Liberian government was prompted by the paper's critical reporting of irregularities in the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf government. In its 23 February edition, the newspaper accused two public officials, Lands and Mines Minister Eugene Shannon and Agriculture Minister Christopher Toe, of sending large amounts of money to their families in the United States on a regular basis.

CEMESP has challenged the decision of the Liberian government to ban the newspaper, saying that if the government is convinced that the "New Broom" has tax liabilities, it should take the newspaper to the tax court rather than unlawfully shutting it down.

"The arbitrary closure of the 'New Broom' by the Liberian government outside due process is barbaric and an attempt to trample upon press freedom and freedom of expression in Liberia," said CEMESP.

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