Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie has assured the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia that the Government has no intention of clamping down on the free press or unduly going after any media institution in the country. He said journalists carrying out their duties within the confines of the laws of Liberia have got nothing to fear.
According to a release, the Minister was speaking during a visit to the Ministry of Information by the Press Union of Liberia leadership headed by their president, Charles Coffey.
They had come to gather further information about the ongoing saga involving Radio Bushrod (D15 Radio) and Henry Costa.
The PUL President reiterated the Union’s stance that it is pursuing further consultations on its next course of action and therefore wanted more information on the government’s position.
He said the union was deeply concerned about the situation, especially regarding the protection of freedom of expression.
Minister Rennie said the Liberian Government remains demonstrably committed to upholding democratic rights and freedoms.
However, when a citizen is in conflict with the laws of country, he said, and chooses to deliberately disrespect the legal process, the state is under obligation to act in safeguarding the national interest.
Following the cordial exchange, both parties pledged to continue to work collaboratively in order to ensure a more vibrant, free and unfettered media environment.
In another development, the Government of Liberia has read with deep concern a newspaper publication attributed to the Management of Radio Bushrod (D-15 Radio), giving the Government a 48-hour ultimatum to publish an indictment drawn against Mr. Henry Pedro Costa or it will go ahead to grant him air time on their platform.
The government wishes to state that under the Criminal Procedure Law, specifically Title 2, Liberian Codes of Law revised, Chapter 15, section 15.14(2) titled: “Secrecy of proceedings” states: “Disclosure concerning indictment before arrest– Except to the extent necessary for the issuance and execution of a warrant of arrest or summons, no person shall disclose the finding of an indictment until the person charged therein is in custody or has given bail.
A violation of this provision shall be punishable as contempt of court.”
Pursuant to the provision of the Criminal Procedure Law, the Government is under no legal obligation whatsoever to unveil an indictment drawn against a Liberian citizen until the person named in the indictment is arrested.
Moreover, Mr. Henry Costa was undergoing investigation for laissez passer fraud at the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) under the custody of the law when his counsel, Findley Karnga signed for, and obtained Costa’s living body, with the firm assurance of producing him whenever he was needed, but has not been seen since then.
The Government of Liberia therefore calls on Cllr. Karnga to make good his promise to unconditionally turn over Mr. Henry Costa to the Liberian Immigration Service.
That said, the Government of Liberia reminds all media institutions that while it will do nothing to stifle free speech, it will not however submit to any form of blackmail under the pretext of exercising freedom of expression.
The D-15 Management ought to therefore carefully reconsider its ultimatum.