LIBERIA: In Wake of Bong Supt. Saga; What Does the Law Says About Recording Private Phone Conversations

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In Liberia, Section 19.1 titled “Violation of Privacy” under the country’s 1976 Penal Code states that it is unlawful to eavesdrop or undertake surveillance without someone’s knowledge.

Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]


Monrovia – Liberia, like most countries around the world have privacy laws against recording phone conversations without the other party’s consent.

In the United States of America, Federal law requires that at least one party taking part in the call must be notified of the recording (18 U.S.C. §2511(2)(d)). For example, it would be illegal to record, without notification, the phone calls of people who come into a place of business and ask to use the telephone.

Telephone recording laws in some U.S. states require only one party to be aware of the recording, while other states require both parties to be aware. Several states require that all parties consent when one party wants to record a telephone conversation. Telephone scammers and others intentionally violating the federal Do Not Call list may try to locate in those states, or use their area codes.

Many businesses and other organizations record their telephone calls so that they can prove what was said, train their staff, or monitor performance. This activity may not be considered telephone tapping in some, but not all, jurisdictions because it is done with the knowledge of at least one of the parties to the telephone conversation.


Legal experts say despite existing laws in the penal code, authorities have not developed them to address the emerging of the world, particularly relating to issues of recording parties without their knowledge.

In Canada, an individual may record a call as long as he or she is one of the participants of the call. The recording can be used as evidence in a lawsuit. However, it is illegal to record communications that the recording party is not participating in. An illegal recording can lead to a sentence of up to five years in prison. Section 183 (Part VI) of the Criminal Code also outlaws surreptitious recording of communications without consent of one of the intended recipients.

In the United Kingdom, The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 in general prohibits interception of communications by a third party, with exceptions related to government agencies. A recording made by one party to a phone call or e-mail without notifying the other is not prohibited provided that the recording is for their own use; recording without notification is prohibited where some of the contents of the communication—a phone conversation or an e-mail—are made available to a third party. Businesses may record with the knowledge of their employees, but without notifying the other party, to provide evidence of a business transaction, ensure that a business complies with regulatory procedures, see that quality standards or targets are being met, protect national security, prevent or detect crime, investigate the unauthorized use of a telecommunications system, or secure the effective operation of the telecommunications system.

In Denmark, Calls and conversations may be recorded by any active participant, with no requirement to make other parties aware of the recording. But forwarding or playing calls considered private is illegal.
In Finland, In the case of private persons, calls and conversations may be recorded by any active participant. There is no requirement to make other parties aware of the recording, but the use of recordings, depending on their content, may be subject to various laws, such as data protection (privacy) legislation, libel laws, laws governing trade and national secrets, and any agreements, such as non-disclosure agreements.


“A person commits a first degree misdemeanor if, except if authorized by law, he: (a) Trespasses on property with the purpose of subjecting anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place; or (b) Installs in any private place without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing photographing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds or events in such place, or uses any such unauthorized installation. “

Section 19.1 of the 1976 Penal Code Law of Liberia

Recording of calls by a company or an employer is subject to data protection legislation and, as a general rule, requires informing the participants prior to recording

In Germany is a two-party consent state—telephone recording without the consent of the two or, when applicable, more, parties are a criminal offence according to Sec. 201 of the German Criminal Code —violation of the confidentiality of the spoken word. Telephone tapping by authorities has to be approved by a judge. Telephone recording by a private citizen can be allowed in cases of self-defense, Sec. 32 of the German Criminal Code, or Necessity, Sec. 34 of the German Criminal Code.

In India, phone tapping is permitted based on Court order only and such permission is granted only if it is required to prevent a major offence involving national security or to gather intelligence on anti-national/terrorist activities.


‘Unlawful’ in Liberia

In Liberia, Section 19.1 titled “Violation of Privacy” under the country’s 1976 Penal Code states that it is unlawful to eavesdrop or undertake surveillance without someone’s knowledge.

“A person commits a first degree misdemeanor if, except if authorized by law, he: (a) Trespasses on property with the purpose of subjecting anyone to eavesdropping or other surveillance in a private place; or (b) Installs in any private place without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there, any device for observing photographing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds or events in such place, or uses any such unauthorized installation; or (c) Installs or uses outside a private place any device for hearing, recording, amplifying or broadcasting sounds originating in such place which would not ordinarily be audible or comprehensible outside, without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy there.”

Legal experts say such recordings obtained illegally, is not permissible in court.

The issue has been resurrected in the wake of the recently-leaked audio recording obtained and published by FrontPageAfrica which centers around President Weah’s reported displeasure over the bestowment of the nation’s highest traditional honor on his Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor – a ceremony that led to the dismissal of the county’s Dakpanah (heads of chiefs in the country).

Chief Moses Suakollie, the Dakpanah, and Arthur Kulah, native superintendent in Bong County (head of chiefs in Bong County) lost their jobs, following a high-level traditional meeting headed by Assistant Minister of Culture at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Joseph B. Jangar, and Chief Zanzar Karwor, chair of the chiefs and elders of the National Traditional Council of Liberia in the county.

On the audio, Madam Walker suggests that the President was likely to dismiss a few traditional leaders over the row.

The Bong County Superintendent is heard explaining to her aides that she had attended a party organized by First Lady Clar Weah after President Weah delivered his second Annual Message. According to her, it was at the President’s Jamaica Resort, along the Roberts International Airport highway, at least three of Pres. Weah’s trusted lieutenants – Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and Minister of State Nathaniel McGill.

Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who was out of the country when the recording went public, as she had traveled to Accra, Ghana to escort the body of her former colleague Geraldine Doe-Sheriff back to Monrovia, spoke for the first time on the saga, telling legislative reporters covering the Capitol that she was not interested in gossips but remains focused in helping to revamp Liberia’s economy.

Undeveloped Law the issue, Legal Experts Say

The Penal Code law interprets “Private place” to mean a place where one may reasonably expect to be safe from casual or hostile intrusion or surveillance. “Other breach of privacy of messages. A person commits a first degree misdemeanor if, except if authorized by law, he: (a) Intercepts without the consent of the sender and receiver a message by telephone, telegraph, letter or other means of communicating privately; but this paragraph does not extend to · (i) overhearing of messages through a regularly installed instrument on a telephone party line or on an extension, or · (ii) interception by the telephone company or subscriber incident to enforcement or regulations limiting use of the facilities or to other normal operation and use; or (b) Divulges without the consent of the sender and receiver the existence or contents of such message if the actor knows that the message was illegally intercepted or if he learned of the message in the course of employment with an agency engaged in transmitting it.”

Legal experts say despite existing laws in the penal code, authorities have not developed them to address the emerging of the world, particularly relating to issues of recording parties without their knowledge.

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