28 January 2013

Liberia: Don't Boycott MDGs Confab

In the wake of calls by some journalists to boycott Tuesday's high level panel conference on the post Millennium Development Goals, the Press Union of Liberia has encouraged members of the media to provide maximum coverage instead of staging a boycott.

The President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Peter Quaqua says staging a boycott of such a high profile of personalities from around the world would mean denying the Liberian people the right to know activities and events of the conference.

Speaking in a telephone interview with this paper Sunday, Quaqua said while the PUL remains in sympathy with journalists and family members of Darlington Pelenah, the News Director of King's FM who is being tried on charges of armed robbery, however, he wants them to respect the due process, instead of circumventing it.

He called on all journalists not to stay away from the MDGs conference, noting that to do so would be a denial of the public right to know.

Last week, the Press Union of Liberia described as unacceptable attempts by the state to unduly punish three of its citizens without conviction.

PUL said in a release last week that the decision by Criminal Court 'D' Judge James Zotaa to disband the jury in the armed robbery case involving Journalist Darlington Pelenah and two others, is a ploy to get the defendants suffer in jail.

The Union said it was unfair to the defendants for the court to allow the flimsy argument from the West Point Commissioner to distract its attention from the trial when the case was almost reaching its closing point.

If Commissioner Miatta Flowers did not approve of the two jurors who were allegedly planted on the jury, the Union wonders why she waited for the case to progress at this stage, when witnesses from prosecution and defense have already testified.

Commissioner Flowers claimed she had no knowledge of two of the jurors selected from the Township of West Point to sit on the jury, which prompted the judge to halt the case and ordered an investigation.

State prosecutors had earlier alarmed that two of the jurors had been tampered with, which prompted the investigation. But lawyers representing the defendants argued that the prosecution was crying foul because they [prosecution] failed to get the two jurors to accept a bribe against the defendants.

Judge Zotaa subsequently ruled the disbandment of the jury, claiming that he did not want to risk a miscarriage of justice in the case.

But the Union believes the court should also check itself. "These jurors were identified, screened, sheltered, fed, protected and paid by the state - not the defendants, how anybody could tamper with them without the state/court knowing," PUL President Peter Quaqua wondered.

The Union lamented that it is frustrating for three young people to be continuously kept in prison without conviction, on account of a sloppy performance of a Commissioner. "Once again, our courts must stamp out these kinds of manipulations because they do not speak well of the justice system of the country," the PUL President added.

PUL therefore called on the court to grant the defendants bail to further demonstrate its stands against "a miscarriage of justice" since no death occurred in the alleged robbery incident."

The Union at the same time called on the court to go beyond the disbandment of the jury and take action against whosoever that may have been responsible for this costly carelessness that violates the defendants.

Journalist Darlington Pelenah and the two other defendants have been in jail since they were picked up in July of 2012.

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