6 October 2010

President shows free expression commitment by signing FOI Act, opening women's radio station

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Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf signed into law the long-awaited freedom of information act this week, the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) is pleased to report. Coupled with her recent launch of an all-women owned radio station, it's just another example of her commitment to shifting the free expression landscape in Liberia.

The signing of the law on Monday makes Liberia the first West African country with a freedom of information act.

Free expression advocates across the country and region hailed the law. Liberians can now access "publicly held information that could contribute to their development and the alleviation of poverty within their communities," said CEMESP.

The law comes about after more than two years of intense lobbying and advocacy by CEMESP and other members of the Liberia Freedom of Expression Coalition, the Liberia Media Law and Policy Reform Working Group and the Liberia Civil Society Consortium on Freedom of Information.

"This is the first major step on a trip of many miles," CEMESP noted. "Our next plan is to ensure a successful implementation of the FOI law and to ensure that an independent broadcast regulator and the transformation of the LBS into a public service broadcaster are accomplished."

Meanwhile, this August Johnson-Sirleaf launched the first ever women-owned radio station in Liberia (and only fourth in the world) in the Mudhole community, according to the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC).

Liberian Women Democracy Radio (LWDR, FM 91.1) targets women and girls across seven counties throughout Liberia, advocating for their rights, highlighting gender sensitive issues and providing practical training for female journalists.

LWDR is funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund.

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