(2nd from Left) PUL President Abdullai Kamar, Cllr. Syrenius Cephas and Philipbert Brown, National Chronicle Publisher
Monrovia - Scores of journalists Wednesday stormed the Temple of Justice, the seat of the Judiciary to witness hearing into the writ of prohibition filed with Supreme Court Justice In-Chamber KabinehJ’aneh, against the government over the closure of the Chronicle Newspaper. Last week the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) the umbrella organization for journalists in the country filed a petition for the writ of prohibition against the decision by the government to shut down the paper.
The PUL had claimed in the writ of prohibition that the closure of the paper without any legal basis was a clever attempt by the government to crack down on the media. The PUL termed the paper’s closure a return to the draconian rule of past regimes, where media personnel were ordered jailed and media houses arbitrarily closed by state security acting on orders of the government.
However, in the writ of prohibition, the PUL had prayed the high court to order the immediate re-open of the paper, as the Union sees no constitutional basis for the closure. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s hearing could not take place due to procedural error made on the part of the union’s lawyer Cllr. Syrenius Cephas because he made a last minute amendment of his earlier legal memorandum filed with the high court.
Associate Justice In-Chamber Kabineh J’aneh had told the parties to the case, that the high court could not proceed with the hearing, because of the last minute amendment made and re-scheduled the hearing for Friday afternoon.
Cllr. Cephas, who fell short to state the amendment made in his legal memorandum, told reporters outside of the court that the amendment was necessary to convince the high court of the illegal closure of the paper by government and the need to open it. “Let me tell you that today’s hearing could not go ahead because of the amendment made, that include several constitutional issues,” said Cephas when he addressed reporters outside of the high court.
PUL President Abdullai Kamara, who attended the hearing told reporters that the PUL was compelled to make the move because since the closure of the paper and its Managing Editor’s arrested by the Liberia National Police (LNP), he is yet to be charged.
The Chronicle Newspaper owned and managed by Philibert Browne was shut down by the government in early August when armed police officers stormed the paper’s office on Carey Street and arrested Browne and other members of the editorial staff.
The arrest of Brown and his editorial staff had stemmed from a story the paper had published indicating plans by some Liberians in the Diaspora to form an interim government to replace the Unity-Party led government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Diaspora Liberians had accused the Sirleaf-led administration of corruption and failure to fight the deadly Ebola virus in the country.