Liberia tightens Screws on Foreign Journalists

The Perspective
May 29, 2001

What seems to almost be a tit-for-tat or a reversal of sanctions is a spate of guidelines and policy measures the Liberian Government has issued recently since the imposition of sanctions by the UN Security Council on that country almost a month ago for Liberia's involvement in the Sierra Leone crisis. These measures that have been issued seem to target specific groups or organizations.

Immediately after the imposition of the sanctions regime, the Liberian Foreign Ministry issued a policy restricting the movement of foreign diplomats to the main city area, Monrovia. Foreign diplomats were warned not to travel outside the city limits, and if they had to do so, they needed to seek clearance with the Foreign Ministry. They were also advised not to go out at night after 8:30 pm. The government argued that this measure was intended as a security insurance to protect foreign diplomats from dissidents said to be advancing .

Following suit in a similar move, the Ministry of Information issued a new set of guidelines restricting foreign journalists from visiting Liberia.

The Ministry stated in a press release (copy of which was sent to this newsmagazine):

"These new guidelines are intended to minimize the impact of the anti-government propaganda that is currently being orchestrated by a select number of foreign journalists and news organizations.

"In recent times, foreign journalists, particularly from the Newsweek Magazine and the Daily Telegraph of London, suddenly showed up in Monrovia without advanced notice, demanded accreditation and went on to publish negative articles that have further damaged the image of Liberia...

"The new Ministry of Information guidelines will require a letter of intent from the head offices of media institutions that foreign journalists represent. A minimum of 72 hours notice will be required prior to the journalist visiting Liberia, and a 24 hour waiting period will be instituted before accreditation is granted..."

Many analysts view this move as tantamount to a ban being imposed on foreign journalists from visiting Liberia.

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