The government of President Charles Taylor has banned a parade organized by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which falls today, May 3, 2002.
On Monday, April 22, the PUL issued a statement outlining a week-long calendar of activities, meant to observe this year’s World Press Freedom Day. However, today’s intended parade by members of PUL (which was scheduled to culminate in an address by three personalities, including Information Minister Reginald Goodridge) was banned ostensibly because it breached the government’s recent pronouncement forbidding public gatherings in the country.
Two years ago, on May 3, 2000, police personnel disbanded a similar parade, even though the PUL had secured an official permit from the Ministry of Justice, on the pretext that some persons with “ulterior motives” had planned to use the parade to destabilize Monrovia.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns this habitual action of the Charles Taylor government to disrupt the annual World Press Freedom Day celebrations by the PUL. It represents the most direct affront yet on media freedom in Liberia, and infringes Articles 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the Republic of Liberia is a signatory. It also contradicts President Taylor’s assurances that the “civil liberties” of the Liberian people would be respected under the state of emergency.
On this World Press Freedom Day, the MFWA appeals to you to condemn this blatant attack on media freedom in Liberia.