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CEMESP fosters cooperation between Liberian journalists and security forces

In response to harassment and intimidation of Liberian journalists by security personnel, the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP), with support from the IFEX Campaigns and Advocacy Programme, convened a symposium on 7 April in Monrovia, bringing together members of the media, academia, civil society, security agencies and government. Security forces were asked to protect journalists so they can do their work and to understand the importance of press freedom, and journalists were asked to respect the role of security personnel.

Participants at the symposium, "Complementing Roles and Responsibilities of Media Practitioners and Security Personnel in Fostering Media Freedom in Liberia" acknowledged the immense contribution the free press makes to the issues of accountability, transparency and public debate, in order to develop a democracy. They also urged journalists to be professional and ethical, and to respect personal privacy "so as not to inspire fear in any vulnerable group." Security personnel were asked not to hide behind the law in order to crack down on journalists.

CEMESP adds that of 26 attacks reported in its 2009 "Report on Attacks on Free Expression in Liberia", five were directly linked to police actions, while others were executed by security based on orders from government actors.

Participants reaffirmed a determination to work to ensure the protection of free speech and press freedom as laid down in the constitution. Representatives of the government expressed their intention to work with the media "to foster friendship and ensure professionalism."

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