Employees of the National Chronicle Newspaper have called on the Liberian Government to immediately re-open the paper so as to continue its information dissemination in the wake of the country’s health crisis.
The Chronicle employees described the forceful closure of the paper without court warrant by the Liberian Government as an act of muscling the press as it relates to freedom of the press, which it claimed to have protected in the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf regime.
A press statement issued in Monrovia yesterday by the newspaper employees further noted that the act of bursting into the office of a registered business entity, as well as tear-gasing workers was tantamount to jungle justice and complete violation of human rights.
The release said it was in the interest of the government and its declared commitment to press freedom and freedom of speech to unconditionally lift the ban on the operations of the newspaper and the closure of its offices. On Thursday, August 14, 2014, the Liberia National Police “illegally and un-Constitutionally” burst into the office of the National Chronicle Newspaper on Carey Street, downtown Monrovia without court warrant.
The employees, in the press statement, also condemned the government for violating the organic laws of the country, saying it was irresponsible, immature and reckless to use dozens of armed police officers to close down a legally registered entity. This act, according to the employees, was an intimidation and anti-press freedom.
“The Police officers, who took oath to protect life and property, in the process of shutting down the paper, mal-handled Chronicle’s Managing Editor, Jah Johnson, Sub-Editor, Monica Samuel, News Editor, Emmanuel Mensah and IT officer, Emmanuel Logan. The police officers inflicted wounds on these employees and further incarcerated the paper’s News Editor and IT officer, in total violation of the Liberian Constitution and Universal Human Rights as a member state of the United Nations Charter on Human and Individual rights,” he said.
“The act of the Sirleaf-led government to perpetually keep our paper closed without a genuine reason, has subjected us to abject poverty in amid the health crisis. This undemocratic attitude of the government to deny us our rights to work has, therefore, made us incapable to provide daily meals for our families in the wake of ongoing economic hardship,” the Chronicle employees noted in their release.
The workers further indicated that the best and responsible thing the government should have done was to sue the entity, if it had anything against the paper, in accordance with Article 21(b) of the 1986 Constitution, which reads: “No person shall be subject to search or seizure of his person or property, whether on a criminal charge or for any other purpose, unless upon warrant lawfully issued upon probable cause supported by a solemn oath or affirmation, specifically identifying the person or place to be searched and stating the object of the search; provided, however, that a search or seizure shall be permissible without a search warrant where the arresting authorities act during the commission of a crime or in hot pursuit of a person who has committed a crime.”
They, therefore, threatened a lawsuit against the government for the illegal closure of their paper, violation of their rights and illegal detention of two of their staffs, as well as the travel restriction placed on their publisher, Mr. Philipbert Brown, if the government failed to lift the ban on the paper.
The release mentioned Article 13(1 & 2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights under the United Nations Charter of human and individual rights as one of the fundamental rights denied their publisher, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country.”