The Publisher and Managing Editor of the independent daily Hot PepperPhilipbelt Brown and ex-diplomat Ambassador Wendell McIntosh spent the weekend at the Monrovia Central Prison commonly known as South Beach for alleged libel.
Amb. Wendell served as Liberia’s envoy to Holland under ex-President Charles GhankayTaylor. Both individuals were picked up by officers of the Liberia National Police on Friday and Saturday respectively, for reporting a rape case, linking Bong County Representative Prince Moye.
According to a writ issued by the court, Brown and McIntosh are sued for liable and character assassination against Representative Moye, whom the Hot Pepper newspaper claimed raped a female minor.
The Bong lawmaker is claiming damages of US$1 million. On Saturday, 8 October the court denied a US$1.5msurety bond for temporary release of the detainees. Earlier, several citizens of Bong County have rebuffed media reports linking Rep. Prince Moye to statutory rape.
The paper reported Moye raped a teenager in Rock Hill Community along the Monrovia-Robertsfield highway. Most citizens in Gbarnga interviewed by reporters described the allegation against the lawmaker as “baseless and yet another calculated ploy by Moye’s political detractors.”David Karchue, Commissioner of Bong Electoral District #2, traced Rep. Moye’s upbringing to a humble beginning, noting that such a person will never commit a crime such as rape.
“The first day I heard the report, I laughed. Rep. Moye has been living in this district since birth and not a day did we hear any crime against his character–least to mention him allegedly committing rape.
However, the Criminal Court at the Temple of Justice is expected to commence hearing of the case today, Monday, October 10. Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia has expressed concern about the arrest anddetention of Publisher Phillibert Brown and wants his civil liberties respected under the doctrine of presumption of innocence before the law.
In a Press statement issued in Monrovia, Acting PUL President JallahE. Grayfield, III, said in a civilized democracy where the media is strivingto de-criminalize harmful media laws and speech offenses, it wasshocked that the court would still be treating civil cases ascriminal.
“In as much we believe that people who feel injured in whatever meansmust test the law through the court, we don’t equally want the law tobe used in an unconventional way to punish people”, the release said.
This is the second time Mr. Brown has fallen in trouble in connection with his reportage. The Government here raided his offices over a year ago, shut down his previous publication CHRONICLE, and have him incarcerated.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Jonathan Browne