CESTOS, River Cess – Lawyers representing the prosecution in a criminal coercion case filed against three River Cess journalists failed to appear in court on Monday, the day assigned for hearing by Abraham Nyonway, the associate magistrate of the Cestos Magisterial Court.
The defense counsel complained of waiting in court for hours and not even a word was received from the prosecution team, until the city solicitor, Salinsa Togar, who is a government lawyer assigned at the court, prayed for a continuance, suggesting that the prosecution was not prepared for the hearing on Monday.
A former representative of River Cess, Victor Wilson filed the suit against Eric Doue, the manager of Echo Radio Station in Yarpah Town and The Bush Chicken’s River Cess reporter, and Saturday Jududoe and Stanley Wrehdyu, two other journalists working with Echo Radio.
The journalists were charged with criminal coercion for alleged defamation of character after they reported on a link between Wilson and former River Cess’ county inspector A. Trokon Browne and a missing construction equipment.
The lead defense lawyer, Paul Jarvan, said in an interview with The Bush Chicken that the action of the prosecution was unfair to the defense.
“In as much as we want justice and fair play and will not be opting for the case go ahead in the absence of the other lawyers, it was unfair to us on grounds that we had a notice of assignment as per the minutes of court,” Jarvan noted. At the same time, he described the lawsuit as an attack on the media which is only intended to undermine the freedom of information rights of the three journalists who were simply conducting their professional duties.
He said because of the ongoing case, the journalists are now prevented from broadcasting or publishing information concerning the earthmoving equipment.
The defense lawyer is meanwhile calling for an expeditious adjudication of the case. He also called on the court to place a strong warning to the prosecution to desist from failing to honor assignments of the case.
He said, “The journalists have a national duty to serve the country and the Liberian people as per their profession and code of ethics must not be curtailed as a result of this ongoing legal battle.”
Jarvan noted that the case is a serious one and that the state must be able to prove its case against the defendants.
The court had earlier denied a motion from defense lawyers to dismiss the case. The next assignment has been placed on June 21.
Featured photo by Eric Doue