For Immediate Release
The International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) joined several other organizations in early May to host activities in celebration of World Press Freedom Day. Through the USAID funded Civil Society and Media Leadership Program (CSML), IREX partnered with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), UNESCO and the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to organize a number of events to mark the 19th anniversary of a day that honors the achievements and bravery of the men and women who call themselves journalists.
The events began on Wednesday, May 2 with an international conference that brought together 115 participants from three Mano River Union States – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. Using the global World Press Freedom Day theme, New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies, participants assessed the level of press freedom in the subregion and discussed the important role of the media in the reconstruction process in each of the three countries. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast are post conflict countries, and participants stressed the need for the media to remain free and independent as a recipe for avoiding a return to conflict.
Liberia’s Information Minister, Lewis Brown and a representative from the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Information made news during the conference. Mr. Brown announced that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf intends to embrace The Table Mountain Declaration, which calls on African governments to abolish criminal defamation or libel laws that negatively impact the work of journalists. He said the president will consult her legal team in the coming days to prepare a bill to be presented to the legislature to repeal Liberia’s criminal libel law.
The representative of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Information, E. Kwame Yankson said the Sierra Leonean Parliament will pass the Freedom of Information Act by the second week of May.
On World Press Freedom Day itself, May 3rd, hundreds of journalists paraded through the streets of Monrovia. Later, students from two of Liberia’s leading universities debated the importance of the Freedom of Information Law. Press Union’s annual award dinner climaxed the celebrations on Friday, May 4.
Each year, May 3rd is observed as World Press Freedom Day. The United Nations set aside that day to celebrate the principles of press freedom and honor those who have died in pursuit of that freedom.
Last updated: October 16, 2014