PUL concern over Cllr. Tah's suspension

News Release | January 18, 2014

PUL President Abdullai Kamara

The Press Union of Liberia said it is troubled by recent actions by the Supreme Court of Liberia against Justice Minister Christiana Tah and Cllr Beyan Howard for their role in the compassionate release of journalist Rodney Sieh.

“The decision of the High Court has projected a continuation of that sad episode, which kept the journalist behind bars and his paper, FrontPage Africa, shutdown for months.” the Union sad in a statement issued in Monrovia. 

PUL President Abdullai Kamara said taking such a decision, more than two months after Sieh’s landmark release, renews concerns about the future of democracy, especially the sustenance of a free press in Liberia.

“Punishing someone for merely seeking compassion for a journalist fighting against corruption raises a new specter of fear that is poised to institute the dreaded effect of self-censorship among journalists in Liberia,” the release said.

The release indicates that the PUL has always viewed the punishment against Sieh as a disincentive to the developing freedom and democracy environment in Liberia, and is further worried about the reflections of punishing Cllr. Howard for making a compassionate appeal.
Kamara in the release said, “This action simply limits opportunities for anyone to stand up for journalists or democracy in Liberia.”

The PUL, according to the release, believes that regardless of how distasteful anyone’s offense is, there should be no further offense for anyone expressing remorse for them. “Because the High Court in South Africa found Nelson Mandela and associates guilty of treason and subversive activities, that did not stop the rest of humanity from disagreeing.

In fact, until very recently, even the United States, still considered Mandela a terrorist, but the rest of the world had always resisted,” the release said.

In the release, the PUL said this action has most importantly brought forth the issue of contempt, which remains undefined in our jurisdiction, despite strides being made to reform the governance process.

The Union called on the Legislature to act hastily and enact laws to define contempt of court and the legislature, as has been required of the constitution since 1986.

The Union noted that this will strengthen democracy in Liberia and bring hope that laws are about ensuring justice and empowerment, and not necessarily to punish people.

“By providing an early resolution to the question of contempt, the Legislature will be preventing future recurrences of the constitutional issue that is today poised to disrupt the effective functioning of the government,” The PUL’s release said.

The PUL said it remains available to continue this conversation in ensuring that actions taken to support the functioning of the government do not have the unintended consequence of undermining the government.