The constitutional rights and freedoms of the Publisher of the National Chronicle Newspaper has been restored by the Supreme Court of Liberia. The rights of Philipbert Brown were restored Monday after the Justice in Chamber, His Honor Kabinah Ja’nah ruled in a prohibition petition filed against the Liberian government.
Ja’nah, who is also Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, said Mr. Brown’s rights to travel were restored because the restraining order did not have constitutional basis. Article 15 c of the 1986 constitution of Liberia states: “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with the constitution.”
The Chamber Justice explained that the court’s ruling quashes the order from Police Director Chris Massaquoi which restrained the Publisher from traveling in and out of the country. He said Director Massaquoi’s order restraining the Journalist from traveling has no enforcement of the law.
However, regarding the other aspects of the petition which borders on constitutional issues, the Justice in Chambers said that aspect has been referred to the full bench, because, according to him, matters bordering on constitutional issues are determined by the full bench.
Justice Ja’nah said although the matter at bar has no precedence under the Liberian jurisdiction, but he informed parties during the chamber conference that the full bench of the Supreme Court would entertain final arguments into the matter on the second Monday in October to determine the constitutional aspects of the case.
The constitutional aspect of the case grew out of an action by government which resulted to the closure of the National Chronicle newspaper. About two months ago, armed police officers stormed the offices of the paper and shut the paper down. The government did not use the due process to close the paper down.
Lawyers representing the Chronicle Newspaper said the failure of the Liberian government to use the due process of law to shut the paper down and suspend the paper’s operational license was unconstitutional.
The lead lawyer representing the newspaper, Cllr. J. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, said if the management of the newspaper had violated any aspect of the constitution or the statute which has to do with free press, and freedom of speech, the Liberian government should have used the court system to seek redress for illegal acts committed by the paper.