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Liberia bans newspaper over minister's sex photo

Liberian Tuesday banned the Independent newspaper from publishing for one year after it published, on its front page, a photo of a state minister involved in a sex scandal. Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh said the paper exposed Liberian children to pornography by publishing the nude photograph of former minister of state for presidential affairs Willis Knuckles having sex with two women.

“The government has decided to revolt its rights to publish for one year because the paper…published a pornography, a nude picture of former minister Knuckles and women having sex, was warned by the Press Union, was suspended for three months last week, and this week the paper came out again went and published again a half nude photograph of former minister Knuckles,” he said. Bropleh said the one-year suspension might be severe, but said the government had the right to protect the society.

“This paper had openly defied the body that it has its membership in – the Press Union – and came right back only after five days of being told not to publish. But also we feel that we have the right to protect the society. This is an era of civility, and we have children, we have the elderly in our community. They should not be subjected to pornography in the regularly daily newspaper,” Bropleh said. The minister denied the closure of the Independent newspaper was the government’s vendetta against the paper for outing former minister of state for presidential affairs Willis Knuckles.

“This has nothing to do with former minister Knuckles. This has something to do with the ethics of journalism. This has to do with understanding that when you’re in a civilized society, you do not publish pornography in a regular newspaper. It could have been anybody. The moment you publish a pornography picture, you are subjected to the law, and this is a breach of the laws under the penal code of Liberia,” Bropleh said.

The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) last week suspended the membership of the Independent for publishing the photo, terming it "obscene and a violation" of its code of ethics. The union, however, condemned the arbitrary closure of newspaper. It said the seizure of the newspaper's offices without a court order was a police action and called on the government to unlock the offices and submit to the rule of law.

PUL said while it acknowledged the reckless ethical misconduct of the newspaper, it would resist any attempt by the government to institute mob justice against the paper, and challenged President Johnson-Sirleaf not to allow her government to slide into repression but give chance to due process. It called on the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative, Alan Doss not to let what it termed "misuse of power" to pass unnoticed.

In a joint press release issued in Monrovia, the Liberia Media Centre and the Centre For Media Studies & Peace Building, said government's action violated three sections of the Liberian Constitution, including the newspaper's right to free expression. The two groups said until a court of law made a determination, they would see the position by the government as a means of avenging the "defeat" it received in the court of public opinion, which eventually led to the resignation of Knuckles.

Date posted: February 28, 2007 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 10