22 April 2019

Liberia: Chief Justice Korkpor - 'Judges Are Targets of Negative Media Reporting'

Chief Justice Francis Korkpor wants the Liberian media exercise due diligence to any story about the country's justice system.

After weeks of media coverage of the impeachment trial of former Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja'neh, Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor says justices and judges are becoming frequent targets of negative media reporting based on judgments (opinions) they deliver in cases before their respective courts.

Justice Korkpor presided over Associate Justice Ja'neh's impeachment trial that brought down a guilty verdict against him on one of four counts. That count had to do with the granting a Writ of Prohibition (petitioned) filed against the Government by petroleum dealers in the country to prevent the collection of levy/taxes of US$0.25 imposed on the pump price of petroleum products for the National Road Fund.

The Chief Justice then called on media practitioners and their managers to exercise due diligence to justices of the Supreme Court, or any of the subordinate courts whenever they report about judgments (opinions) delivered in a case.

"Do not give the public wrong impression about (us) justices' judgment. Let your reporting be accurate and objective; even if we were to be in the wrong, we can say sorry, because judges are human beings, who can gravely err," Justice Korkpor said.

His admonition was contained in an extemporaneous speech he recently delivered at the close of a five-day capacity building workshop of Judicial reporters at the Temple of Justice.

The training was jointly organized by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Internews in collaboration with the Public Affairs Section of the Judiciary on Capitol Hill.

Korkpor stressed the need for the media and the judiciary to work together to sustain the country's peace, "but sometimes, your reporting makes some of the judges and justices to appear as a monster in the eyes of the public, so such reporting needs to stop."

He the expressed gratitude to the media for following, and reporting on courtroom' activities, stressing, "your unbalanced reporting can create negative perception about us as judges to the extent that it can cause the public to lose confidence in the country's justice system. That is so bad."

"Please try to do due diligence to justices of the Supreme Court by reporting the truth so that the public can speak and judge for themselves about our way of handling judgments," the chief justice pleaded.

"We are friends, and we complement each other, because we need you to reach our work to the public, that is propagate the good news about what we do in the courtroom, but your reporting about the judiciary sometimes undermines the public trust of the justice system," the Chief Justice said.

"Justices and judges are not enemy of the media, so whenever you need any clarity about judgment of the justices, including myself, be comfortable to come to us for it. In this way, you can report the right information to the public," the Chief Justice added.

According to him, judges do not work in secret, so it would be good if journalists were to seek verification about the judgment before opining that a judge was engaged in corrupt practices.

"If your reporting were to injure a judge or justice, it does not affect that individual alone, but the entire judiciary thus making people to lose confidence in the country's justice system. This misgiving has the propensity to make the public take law into their own hands. This is not good for our country," Justice Korkpor added.

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