14 September 2009

Liberia: President Sirleaf Sues New Broom Newspaper

The President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has filed a law suit against the New Broom Newspaper.

According to a writ of summons issued by the Civil Law Court, The President filed for Action of Damages in line with the publication of the paper of September 3, 2009 alleging that the President took US$2 million dollars bribe to award a contract. She is claiming up to US$5 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia has issued a statement welcoming the law suit filed against the New Broom Newspaper by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, but has renewed call to commercial printers not to obey the military orders from Information Minister, Laurence Bropleh to hear from him before printing newspapers.

The Union says the President's decision to go to court should be applauded by all democratic forces because it promotes the rule of law, contrary to her information Minister's unconstitutional pronouncement.

Reacting to Dr. Bropheh's shouting assertions that the PUL did not care about professional competence, the Union said it has always been keen on self regulation, but where self regulation falls, people should not be running to Dr. Bropleh for police action, but to the courts, like President Sirleaf has done.

PUL believes the media community will be interested in the logical conclusion of the free and fair trail of the case against the New Broom so that other journalists can learn some lesson.

A press statement from the Union says it remains open to "constructive engagement" with the Ministry on the development of the media in Liberia, but will never be a partner to arbitrariness.

The umbrella organization for journalists says it is not aware of any law being enforced by the Ministry of Information other than the despotic People's Redemption Council (PRC) Decree of 1980.

The Union says it is woefully shameless for the government of President Sirleaf to be clamoring to enforce a decree that was promulgated by the military junta and say it is not muzzling the press.

"While we do not intend to question the democratic credentials of President Sirleaf, the Union challenges her government to rethink the enforcement of this spineless regulation that defeats the very essence of Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution."

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