The Republic of Liberia is surrounded by Sierra Leone to the west, Guinea to the north and Côte d’Ivoire to its east. Liberia was a colony for about 17 years before partial independence was achieved through the declaration of a commonwealth on 4 April 1839. Full independence was however declared eight years later on 26 July 1847. Although founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, Liberia is mostly inhabited by indigenous Africans, with the slaves’ descendants comprising 5% of the population. Richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia is a producer and exporter of basic products, ie. timber and rubber.
Overview of Media & FOE Environment
With a decrease in libel cases, efforts to repeal defamation laws and a reduction in violence against journalists, the Liberian media environment saw significant improvements in 2012. The constitution provides for freedoms of speech and the press, and the government largely respects these rights.
Current major challenges include the criminal defamation laws that The Press Union of Liberia, through a draft bill submitted to Parliament in November 2012 is advocating for its abolishment and libel charges leveled against media houses. Also, compensations sought and imposed in civil cases is often excessive leading to severe financial difficulties for journalists and their outlets: this encourages self-censorship in the media.
Corruption and bribery in the judiciary also contribute to a largely unfavorable environment for journalists. Journalism training is also limited, with Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) providing one of the few venues for training in journalistic ethics. The influence and control of the government over the media can however not be ruled out.
Legal Framework for Media Operation
The legal framework of the media in the Republic of Liberia is governed by the following laws:
• Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution