IFJ Urges Liberian Government to Lift Ban on Newspaper after Sex Scandal

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Liberian authorities to lift a one-year revocation of the license of private newspaper The Independent after it published explicit photographs of a minister engaged in sexual acts with two women.

After the publication of the pictures, the newspaper’s editor Sam Dean received death threats.

“We call on the government to lift the arbitrary ban on The Independent and to let the legal system decide if any punishment is necessary,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “The government’s decision is entirely disproportionate and seems to be simply an act of a vengeance. We are also calling for the end of threats to Sam Dean.”

In its February 20 and February 27 editions,The Independent published explicit photographs showing Presidential Affairs Minister Willis Knuckles engaged in sexual acts with two women. The minister resigned and apologised after their publication.

After the photos were published, the government revoked the license of the newspaper for one year and the police closed its offices for 48 hours. The newspaper’s lawyers filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a decision on the shut down next week.

According to reports, the editor of The Independent is currently in hiding after he received death threats. The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) said that it will resist any attempt by the government to exact revenge through mob justice against the paper.

The IFJ supports the PUL’s move to punish the ethical misconduct of its members in this issue. As a member institution, The Independent was suspended for three months for breaking the Union’s code of ethics and conduct by publishing the photos.

In a related case, the PUL fined Radio Veritas 2,500 Liberian Dollars (40 euros) for “broadcasting the vivid description of the obscene material."

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries