- October has been the month of threats for Liberian journalist, especially those in the print who are confronting legal threats and battles.
The latest threat against Liberia's journalists was issued by the country's Chief Justice, Johnnie Lewis who has gone public that he would soon start jailing journalists who violate the Liberian constitution.
Lewis, was enraged by misspelling of his name and consistent attachment of his photographs to stories that have nothing to do with him, disclosed the news during a meeting with five editors of privately-owned newspapers in his office on 22 October.
"This is the last warning; I am calling on you to desist [from the practice] or be charged with contempt, which is punishable by 30 days imprisonment,” Media Foundation for West Africa source quoted the Chief Justice as saying.
“May be after spending 30 days at South Bay, you would become responsible journalists,” he said, supplying the editors with plain sheets of papers asking them to refer to him as “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, His Honour Johnnie N. Lewis” in their future publications.
In a separate development, seven journalists and the 'Public Agenda' newspaper have been dragged to court on allegations of libel. The suit was filed after the journalists had sent petition to the Liberia Press Union, seeking an investigation of Ambrose Nmah, Director of Renaissance Communication [a pro-government radio and television service] for commenting against journalists manhandled by security forcs.
Nmah has filed a "13-count complaint" against the journalists at the Civil Law Court, claiming that his reputation, character and occupation had been injured by the published statement. He said the petition had also exposed him and his family to "hatred, contempt, degradation and public ridicule."
Nmah accused the petitioners of describing him as a "journalistic serpent", the militia of Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who justified the wilful killing of his fellow journalists and would have celebrated had they [journalists] died.
In count 8 of the suit, Nmah alleged that the “… defendants, having no reasonable basis to believe same to be true, accused (him) of spreading ‘sustained hate media messages, directed against his fellow journalists’ in the country.”
He is demanding general damages compensation US $10,000.
Liberian security personnel beat several journalists when they attempted to interview President Ernest Koroma during a visit to the country.
According to Liberia's Center for Media Studies & Peace Building, Nmah's case grew out a complaint filed by Jonathan Paye-Layleh that Nmah had justified security attacks on journalists on account that they had breached security protocols.
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