Three River Cess Journalists Face Lawsuit for Reporting on Missing Construction Equipment

CESTOS, River Cess – Three River Cess journalists, including a Bush Chicken reporter, are facing a lawsuit for criminal coercion after reporting on a link between two of the county’s former officials and a missing construction equipment in the county.

Eric Doue, the manager of Echo Radio Station in Yarpah Town and The Bush Chicken’s River Cess reporter, Saturday Jududoe, and Stanley Wrehdyu were issued a writ of arrest from the Cestos Magisterial Court last Thursday for alleged defamation against a former representative in the 51st National Legislature, Victor Wilson.

Duo and his two codefendants were released on bail last week and are expected to return in court today, Thursday, May 24.

According to the writ, the three journalists, “without color of law, criminally maliciously, and intentionally published on the media outlet of the Echo Radio, fictitious and accusation that the private prosecutor did engage in the sale of a yellow machine which according to the defendants during their radio talk shows, and other programs, actually belongs to the people of Rivercess”.

According to a report filed by Doue and also published by The Bush Chicken, the commissioner of the township of Yarpah, Sampson Mellish, had earlier called on a local River Cess radio station to alert listeners that the machine had been taken by unknown persons.

Two days later, the report says a document was discovered signed by Wilson, former county inspector A. Trokon Browne, and Stephen Menyon. The document waived rights to the machine to a Henry Z. Washington.

It says both Wilson and Browne admitted in separate telephone interviews to giving the machine to the manager of the company, but they said they received no money for the transaction.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff according to the court document is further alleging that the defendants continued with their defamation despite several warning. He noted that the action of the defendants caused serious harm to his name, person and character.

“This act of the defendants being wrongful, unlawful, criminal, wicked, intentional, and malicious, which is in violation of section 14.27 of the new penal law of Liberia, hence the crimes of criminal coercion, the defendants did do commit. Hence, the writ of arrest for redress,” the writ read.

The Press Union of Liberia has said it is monitoring the “weird criminal coercion” court action against the three journalists.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Press Union said it views the court’s action against members of the journalism community in Liberia as means to intimidate journalists in the south central region of Liberia through legal actions.

“It is unacceptable that the rights of journalists and media workers are continuously being violated through different court actions,” the statement noted.

The union also called on the attention of the Supreme Court of Liberia and the Liberia National Bar Association to the situation in River Cess.

Liberia signed the Table Mountain Declaration on 21, July 2012 as the first among countries in the region vowing to repeal criminal defamation or ‘insult’ laws.

Almost six years on, the union said journalists are still being harassed, frightened and persecuted by meanly political leaders of the country using criminal defamation as means of silencing critical voices.

Featured photo courtesy of Eric Opa Doue

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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