Funder: Media Defence, UK
Key Partners: The Press Union of Liberia
Duration: 2022 – 2023
Region: Western Africa
Sector: Capacity Building and Civil Society Strengthening
The project is providing free, high-quality legal support and better access to legal assistance for independent media outlets, journalists, and bloggers in Liberia who lack the financial means to access legal support at commercial rates. In partnership with the Press Union of Liberia, the project is facilitating the establishment of the Liberia Media Defense Center at the headquarters of the Press Union and retain the services of two Lawyers from the Liberty Law Firm for one year (12). The Lawyers are researching, providing legal training and advice, and undertaking at least twenty to twenty-five cases during the project duration.
Legal protection is a priority for Liberian journalists as Liberia undergoes a democratic transition. More journalists in Liberia are facing judicial harassment because of their independent reporting. Liberian politicians usually use multiple lawsuits to threaten critical media outlets and harass prominent media professionals. Also, they usually obtained judicial orders to close essential outlets of media and newspapers as they did to Root FM in 2019. Root FM was a critical voice against George Weah’s Government. Besides, most Liberian journalists have been subjected to defamation lawsuits, detention, physical abuse, the threat of harsh criminal sanctions, and expensive litigation, while most of these victims lack the financial means to access legal support at commercial rates.
In response, VOSIEDA and partners, the Press Union of Liberia and the Department of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Liberia have successfully established the “National Journalists Peer Support Network (NJPSN)’ for Liberia under a UNDEF’s supported project. The NJPSN is monitoring crimes against journalists in Liberia and carrying out advocacy. Nevertheless, the NJPSN is incapable of providing legal defense to journalists, citizen journalists, and independent media outlets under threat for their reporting in Liberia, making this project a critical opportunity for Liberia.
Sector: Media and Civil Society Strengthening
Domain: Media Development
Benefiting zone: Liberia
Nature: Action grant
Duration: 2022 – 2023