The Chief Justice of Liberia, Johnny Lewis yesterday ordered security of the Supreme Court to use force and clear the premise of the Temple of Justice of protestors who had gathered there with placards in protest of the infringement of free speech and the free press. The protestors gathered at the Temple of Justice protesting against the Supreme Court
for holding the publisher and Editor of FrontpageAfrica newspaper and online outlet, Rodney Sieh in contempt for publishing an opinion written by a writer critical of one of the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Gladys Johnson accusing her of biasness in the high-profile rape and murder case against Hans Williams and his wife .
The Supreme Court of Liberia has charged the FrontpageAfrica Editor with contempt for the writer’s published opinion. Justice Johnson and the Supreme Court argued the Editor should had verified the allegation the writer levied against Justice Johnson before publishing his opinion.
Editor Rodney Sieh appeared before the Supreme Court yesterday to face his charges, which prompted protestors to gather at the court’s grounds in support of him and to peacefully express their unhappiness with the suppression of free speech and the free press guaranteed under the Liberian constitution.
According to news reports from Liberian media giving eyewitness account , protestors were peacefully protesting on the premise of the Supreme Court with their placards in support of Editor Sieh and their unhappiness with the court’s infringement of free speech and free press when Chief Justice Johnny Lewis arrived on the grounds of the court, got out of his car, and asked “what are these people doing here”? The Chief Justice immediately ordered security of the Supreme Court to use force and clear the court grounds of the protestors. We were peacefully demonstrating, just holding our placards and this is not unusual for such activities on the premise of the Temple of Justice, it happens here on a regular basis , people come here to protest cases and other infringements, a protestor said. Fighting broke out between security of the Supreme Court and protestors when they began to forcefully remove the protestors on orders of the Chief Justice with many protestors sustaining injuries at the hands of the Supreme Court security.
What is obtaining in Liberia is troubling for the future of democracy and the health of the nation, that the Chief Justice of a country, one who is the custodian of the trust of final arbiter of the nation’s judiciary can engage in summary and extra judicial proceedings and brutality against the governed who are the owners of the public trust he was appointed to serve. What is unfolding in Liberia deserves the immediate attention of all Liberians and especially the National Legislature of Liberia.
It is about time that the Legislature summons Chief Justice Lewise’ court for questioning to put a break on what has become the unprofessional and constant appetite to infringe upon the very laws they were appointed to preserve and interpret. Chief Justice Lewise actions call into question the temperament of his court ability to respond and address the complexity, sophistication of the psychic of the Liberian nation, growth of intellect and the change the country and the world had experienced, completely different from the world the Chief Justice knew when he was studying and practising law. He needs to adopt to the change of the new world order and the transformation and sophistication the country has undergone. The Supreme Court contempt charge against the Editor of FrontpageAfrica is yet another attempt to suppress the press into submission, the instrument of power is being consistently misused to muscle press freedom and free speech since the new democratic government of Africa’s first female President catapulted on the world stage.
The President herself has joined the fray, she will be going to court this November term of court against the publisher of the Broom newspaper, whom she is suing for $5 million for publishing a story accusing her of receiving bribes. The Editor of the Agenda newspaper, Cyrenus Cephas, sometime last year was thrown into prison for publishing a story accusing the Liberian government of being involved in the Guinean crisis. He accused the government of torturing him while in prison at the National Security Agency (NSA)headed by the Presided’s step so, Fumba Sirleaf.
The Liberian press is experiencing unprecedented suppression, prosecution, brutality, and coercion with the intent to suppress it into submission not differential of the Doe and Taylor repressive despotic regimes though the press , Liberian people and the lager international community thought the country has finally found democracy at last after paying high price costing the destruction of the country and lost of about three hundred thousand lives of their fellow countrymen in a senseless civil war.