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Amid closure of National Chronicle newspaper coupled with recent denial of the registration of Voice FM 102.7 radio station and report of alleged harassment on Women Voices newspaper, Senior Legal Adviser to the Press Union of Liberia Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus says it is awkward for the PUL to remain on the National Ebola Task Force while its members continue to be allegedly harassed and intimidated by the Liberian government.
He argued that if the PUL must be seen credible and independent, it cannot be part of the Ebola Task Force organized by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when the rights of some of its members are being abused and trampled upon by the same President.
“It is sad to see the PUL wearing a toothpaste smile with Ellen and cronies on the same table as “warriors” against Ebola and then the next moment as complainant and defendant in the dock fighting with its life to get out of the clutches of terror and brutality,” Cllr. Cephus said in a letter addressed to the President of the PUL Mr. Kamara A. Kamara.
He said the regime of President Sirleaf prefers to go after the media, punish the “dislikes” to have a “free press” of its own, while singing praises and justifying the sale of oil blocks during this EBOLA crisis.
The Lawyer indicated that while the collective support of all media houses is required in disseminating the requisite information needed by our people to protect themselves, however, President Sirleaf’s policy of a free press is “divide and rule.”
Cllr. Cephus: “The irony is while the regime depends on the Liberian media to get its messages across by including the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on the Ebola Task Force under the pretext of forging a national cohesion, it is at the same time clamping down on the media with the denial of registration by the Ministry of Information of the Voice FM 102.7 Station because of its critical views; the reported harassment of the Managing Editor of the Women Voices Newspaper and the attacks and illegal closure of the National Chronicle Newspaper absent any judicial order consistent with due process of law. I fail to see how the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) can be a part of a collective effort or how it can rally its members to support the work of the Task Force in the face of these wanton constitutional violations.”
The Lawyer believes the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) must begin the same approach of critically assessing its continued participation on the so-called Ebola Task force if it wants to be seen as having the moral authority or voice of being the forerunner of democracy for a number of reasons. “First, there seems a concerted attempt by the regime to engage some members of the Liberian media to ignore Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s decision of deploying members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in West Point with undefined instructions that ultimately turned out to be a “shoot to kill policy” that led to the death of Shaki Kamara, while scores of other civilians sustained injuries from bullet wounds.
Touching on the Chronicle case, Cllr. Cephus said he’s going to challenge the illegal closure order of the National Chronicle Newspaper and the denial of the rights of Mr. Philipbert Browne, Publisher of the newspaper, to travel freely in and out of Liberia.
“This is why, I have suggested that a remedial writ of prohibition as a surest way to confront these constitutional violations. The remedy available under the writ of prohibition in my view does not provide a reasonable settlement for damages suffered as a result of the illegal closure order, instead, if it is granted, which has been my prayer, it will only remove the Draconian order of illegal closure and then return the parties to “status quo.” Thus, the remedy available in a writ of prohibition before the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia is limited to its interpretative constitutional authority but is not sufficient and effective to address further financial claims that the National Chronicle and Mr. Browne may have against the Government of Liberia. We will then have to look elsewhere, probably at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice based in Abuja, Nigeria for redress,” Cllr. Cephus stressed.