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Liberian government threatens media outlets with license forfeiture

The government of Liberia through the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) has asked all media entities operating in the country to renew their permits and/or get registered or risk being shut down. In a public service announcement released in Monrovia by the ministry on July 15, 2014, the ministry warned all heads of media entities operating in Liberia that their entities risk being deemed “illegal” if they fail either to register or renew their operational permits with the ministry.

The announcement signed by the ministry's acting director of Press and Public Affairs, Anderson Chea, said the warning is in keeping with the New Executive Law of Liberia, Chapter 31.8 d&c.  

This notice contravenes a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Press Union of Liberia and the Liberian Government. The MOU signed in the early 90s – during the tenure of the Interim Government of Dr. Amos Sawyer by then Information Minister Lamini Warity – gives the Press Union of Liberia the right to register or license all practicing journalists and media houses operating in Liberia.  

The call by MICAT comes in the wake of an outcry by media houses asking the government to pay huge debts owed them. Recently, there has been a call by media houses across the country asking government ministries and agencies to pay debts owed to them for advertisements.

Recent weeks have seen the arrest and jailing of journalist Octavian Williams for a traffic offense, which later turned to assault as alleged by the Police Deputy Director for Operation, Col. Abraham Kromah.

The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding sees the trend the government is taking as a means of clamping down on media institutions they feel uncomfortable with.

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