Power & Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970: The Impact of Globalization and Civil Society on Media-Government Relations

By Tripp, Bernell E. | Journalism History, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Power & Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970: The Impact of Globalization and Civil Society on Media-Government Relations


Tripp, Bernell E., Journalism History


Burrowes, Carl Patrick. Power & Press Freedom in Liberia, 1830-1970: The Impact of Globalization and Civil Society on Media-Government Relations. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2004. 312 pp. $29.95.

Founded by the American Colonization Society in 1822 as a colony for free blacks, Liberia became a viable alternative for many who feared that emancipation and full citizenship rights for millions of African Americans might never be realized. It became the promised land for many-a place to bring thek dreams to fruition and control their own destiny. As one of the oldest nation-states in continuous existence and Africa's oldest republic, Liberia also gradually came to provide its citizens from indigenous backgrounds as well as the repatriates from the United States and thek descendants, with the seemingly ideal location from which to exercise opportunities for free expression. However, despite declaring their independence from the ACS in 1847, Liberians could not escape oppression in its varied forms, especially from the government.

Carl Patrick Burrowes' study argues that government restrictions on the media from 1830 to 1970 can be traced to power resource imbalances brought on by global interdependence. In gauging the effects of external influences on government-press relations, he pinpoints "measurable changes in the societal context that frequently preceded or coincided with shifts in the regulatory envkonments during four distinct periods in Liberian history." These four periods include: the Colonial Period (1822-1846); the Republican Era (1847-1899); the creation of Greater Liberia (1900-1930); and Economic Modernization (1931-1970). He uses a biographical approach as he delves into both the professional and personal relationships between those who disseminated and enforced the restrictions, those who bore the brunt of the restrictions, and those who stepped forward to defend press freedom within each defined period of almost a century and a half.

Burrowes, chair of communication studies at Morgan State University and founder and editor of the Revelation magazine in Liberia, bases his arguments on analyses of materials assembled mainly from public documents, including constitutional provisions, statutes, and Supreme Court cases that encroached on press freedom, and the perceptions of the participants as revealed by their own words in these documents. …

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