|Counsellor Jerome Verdier, former Chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, TRC has offered to represent Liberia’s leading newspaper, FrontpageAfrica on a pro bono service at the Supreme Court.FrontpageAfrica is being charged for contempt by the Supreme Court of Liberia for publishing an opinion written by a writer who the newspaper do not know. The writer was critical of one of the Associates Justices of the Supreme Court Gladys Johnson, wife of former Vice Presidential candidate of the Congress for Democratic Change,(CDC) and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Samuel K. Doe administration, Rudolph
The Supreme Court levied the charge on the FrontpageAfrica newspaper on grounds the editor, Rodney Sieh did not verify the story from Justice Johnson of whom the writer’s opinion was centered around before publication.
See full content of Cllr. Verdier’s letter to the Editor of FrontpageAfrica, Rodney Sieh below.
This is to let you know that I personally admire your courage to stand for your rights and convictions and face the Honorable Supreme Court on your own. It is no doubt, that “freedom of speech and of the media” is an unassailable and inviolable constitutional right, which no one – not even the Supreme Court can invade without just cause. In your instant case, the Supreme Court is without any cause justifiable under law, morality or ethics to hold you in question, let alone cite you for contempt.
The right to free speech, available to the people and protected by the Constitution as stated above, is beyond the right of the Court to protect its integrity under appendages of “contempt”. The Court must derive its respect from protection of fundamental rights and the impartial dispensation of justice; its authority from the law, and its morality from the coldness of its neutrality, shielded from public sentiments. What the Court cannot and should never do is to insulate itself from public scrutiny and criticism by the unbridled exercise of authoritarian power and violation of the very rights it was constituted to protect, defend and safeguard.
As custodian of the people’s rights, the Court should be commending and protecting you and the free media for giving ordinary citizens the space to express themselves, no matter how they do it, so that the blood, sweat and sacrifice of our people for greater and accountable democracy can be a reality, rather than an illusion of power mongers who desire power for themselves at the expense of the people.
A critical citizenry is very important to building democracy. It helps to propel the will of the people by keeping public officials constantly aware that they serve the people and not themselves; they are accountable to the people and not their powerful interest; and that to criticize them is not to disrespect them but to offer them a measure of public discontent which, eventually helps them to do the right things- and serve well.
On this premise, I volunteer my service to represent you in this matter at the Supreme Court so that justice is done. Should you accept, I will formally notify the Honorable Supreme Court of my representation because I hate to imagine the consequences of your inadequate representation or unfair trial. .
Jerome J Verdier, Sr., Jerome J. Verdier, Sr.
COUNSELLOR AT LAW/SENIOR COUNSEL