Liberia: Judiciary Alarms Against Media Attacks

The Judiciary Branch of Government has termed as unacceptable and unwarranted, the increasing wave of media attacks on the individual persons of the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia as well as Judges of subordinate courts.

In a press release issued Monday, 22 April, the Judiciary warns that if the media attacks are not checked, could put the lives and safety of these judicial officials and their family members in great danger.

The statement is specifically in reaction to the April 22, 2019 front page publication of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper titled "Liberia's IMO REP vents anger at Supreme Court Chief Justice Francis Korkpor: "My Blood Will Be on His Hands."

The Director of Judicial Public Information Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah describes such publication as not only intended to intimidate the courts, but also a direct intention to besmear the hard earned reputation of the Chief Justice and in some cases Associate Justices and Judges of subordinate courts.

In the publication referenced by the Judicial Public Information office, the local daily claims that Atty. Jackson lavished praises at the two female Justices on the Supreme Court Bench for what he terms as properly grilling Solicitor General, Cllr. DarkuMulbah.

According to the local daily's report, Atty. Jackson says if he does not win the case, he will come to Monrovia, and submit his issue to the people.

The paper continues that Atty. Jackson allegedly warned that if the Government puts bullets in his head, his "blood will be on the hands of Chief Justice Korkpor ... "

In reaction, Judicial Public Information Director Atty. Darryl Ambrose Nmah, Sr. asserts that such insinuation reportedly coming from Atty. Isaac Jackson is not only unwarranted but also reckless.

Atty. Nmah argues that Atty. Jackson being a lawyer, knows, or ought to know, that opinions and judgments of the Supreme Court of Liberia are not rendered or made by the Chief Justice.

Instead, Atty. Nmha reminds Atty. Jackson that they are a unanimous decision of the full Bench or majority members of the Bench in which case the single vote of the Chief Justice could either be with those of the majority or the dissent.

He warns that Atty. Jackson cannot pre-judge matters that are pending before a court undetermined.

Director Nmah, in a Judicial Press Release, expresses deep concerns that the publication by the FrontPageAfrica Newspaper would take the line of questioning by Justices on the Supreme Court Bench during arguments in a case and insinuate that a particular party litigant has prevailed in that case.

This he terms as worrying and dangerous for the administration of justice as such publication could send the wrong signals to the reading public and put the safety of the Justices and Judges at risk.

Atty. Nmah observes that in an effort for the paper to achieve its objective of running a biased and judgmental story, the newspaper only reported that the attention of the Supreme Court was drawn to the expiration of the passports of Atty. Isaac Jackson and his family members and the 'alleged' failure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to renew same.

He continues that the paper failed to report that the Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia was mandated by the Chief Justice to work along with Atty. Jackson's lawyer to ensure that his passport and those of his family members be renewed as a matter of right to a Liberian citizen.

According to the release, the Chief Justice further inquired whether Atty. Jackson was still going to work at his offices, still resident in the official residence and still receiving his salary in accordance with the Stay Order.

To these inquiries, the press release says Atty. Jackson's lawyer answered in the affirmative, stating that only for the salary which had delayed for the past two months.

The release adds that the lawyer was not certain that said action was deliberate to undermine the Stay Order.

The Judiciary says it is concerned with the increasing number of party-litigants taking to the media, be it print, electronic or social media, to agitate on matters that are undetermined before the courts with the intention to bring undue pressure on judges to render hasty decisions in the matters preferably in their favor.

The Judiciary warns that such conduct undermines the fair and impartial administration of Justice.

The Judiciary maintains that cases before the courts will be determined based on the facts and circumstances of such cases and the laws prevailing and not on sentiments of party litigants or public sentiments.

As the Judiciary continues to build a cordial working relationship with the media, as evidenced by the just - ended week-long media training for Judicial Reporters, the Judiciary also reminds the Liberian media of their responsibility to the public and their duty to keep the peace within this Republic.- Press release

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