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Assaults on journalists and legal threats curb press freedom

Police brutality and legal action are the two greatest sources of attacks on journalists in Liberia, says the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) in its 2009 report. Journalists and media workers also face death threats, detention and censorship.

The report, "Intimidation: The renewal of censorship in Liberia," documents numerous press freedom violations. The Ministry of Information has suspended the publication of newspapers. Last October, government officials hijacked a community radio station, dismissed the station's board of directors and suspended the station's manager.

The report includes a statement from the Press Union of Liberia condemning government intimidation and harassment of printing houses "whenever there is a publication the government considers unfavourable." The arrest of the owner of a printing house last December was "aimed at pushing printers to begin screening and editing newspaper contents before printing, thereby leading to absolute censorship and an impediment to press freedom."

CEMESP also carries out media-building programmes focusing on best practices for journalists in a post-conflict environment, summarised in the report. In the first training workshop of the year, Liberian journalists were urged to be a part of the reconciliation process in the country after years of civil war. In July 2009, there was a three-week skills training workshop for 25 Liberian women journalists under the theme: Preparing Women for Leadership Roles in the Liberian Media.

The second half of the report includes essays covering topics like, media accountability in post-conflict Liberia and the role of the media in fighting corruption.

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    The state of the Liberian media in 2009 is a far cry from the freedom of expression heralded by President Sirleaf at her inauguration in 2006, says CEMESP.

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