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Liberia Press Freedom Day - 2002-05-03

The government of Liberia has barred journalists from taking to the streets as part of the celebration of Press Freedom Day. It says the action falls under a ban on all public gatherings that’s part of the state of emergency. It was declared on February 8th in an effort to repress rebel activity.

Lyndon Ponnie -- the head of the membership committee of the Press Union of Liberia -- says the ban is disturbing and unfortunate and will harm relations between the government and the press. Corlinius Nagbe, who works for President Charles Taylor's privately owned Liberia Communications Network has called on journalists to remain unwavering despite the ban. Meanwhile, journalists marked Press Freedom Day with an indoor lecture forum at the headquarters of the Liberia Press Union. But one of the three speakers, Information Minister Reginald Goodridge, did not show up --and did not provide a substitute to come in his place.

Scores of journalists have been arrested and detained in the line of their preofessional duty since the state of emergency was declared. The government recently closed the independent Analyst newspaper after accusing it of acting as an agent of political detractors of the Taylor administration. The paper has denied the charge.