Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA- The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) has described the Liberian Government ongoing probe of President Weah’s foremost critic and Chairman of the Council of Patriots (CoP), Mr. Henry Costa, as a political ‘witch hunt’ meant to silence him for his advocacy.
But the CDC government of President George Weah has repeatedly dismissed such claim.
ALJA says the investigation is not a genuine attempt by the government to uncover the alleged forgery of the laissez passer or the emergency travel documents, which Chairman Costa used to legally enter Liberia in December 2019.
In a Press Release issued on January 16, 2020, the Association says any serious attempt at investigating the authenticity of Mr. Costa’s travelling documents would had commenced immediately at the Roberts International Airport(RIA) in Margibi County when he arrived in Liberia for the hosting of the COP’s December 30, 2019 protest, but not weeks later when he was about to depart the country for the US on January 10, 2020.
ALJA termed as unfortunate attempts by the Liberian government to have the government of Sierra Leone extradite to the country Mr. Costa who was arrested at the Lungi International Airport in Sierra Leone on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, reportedly at the request of the Liberian government after fleeing the country.
The Association says it is disappointing that the Weah administration would aggressively seek the support of the government of Sierra Leone for the extradition of Mr. Costa to Liberia while he has not been formally charged for a reported investigation into how he obtained his emergency travel documents or laissez passer which authorities claimed were forged.
At the same time, ALJA is commending the Civil Society Organizations of Sierra Leone for calling on the government of Sierra Leone to immediate release Mr. Costa and reject any extradition request from the Liberian government.
The Association is also, commending the government of Sierra Leone, through Information Minister, Mohammed Swaray for its commitment to respecting the rule of law, and the rights and basic freedom of Mr. Costa.
ALJA says it is disappointing that in a Country where the economy is in dire straits, President Weah and the CDC government would opt to devote time, financial resources and manpower to pursue Mr. Costa as opposed to engaging in more meaning endeavors that would benefit the country and its people.
Commenting on the January 6, 2020 streets protest organized by the COP in Monrovia, the Liberian Diaspora Journalists organization decried the heavy handedness applied by officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) in dispersing the protestors.
ALJA says the action of the LNP officers undermines Liberia’s peace, tranquility and democracy.
The Association says the police’s unprovoked excessive force, which included the use of tear gas grenades and a water cannon against the peaceful protestors that assembled under the canopy of the COP at the seat of the Liberian government on Capitol Hill to speak-out against the brazen none adherence to the rule of law and unbridled corruption in the CDC government was unnecessary and outrageous.
ALJA says while it abhors the protestors’ reported decision to use a section of the Capitol Hill seat of government for cooking purposes, however, it strongly condemns President George Weah and the CDC led government for ordering officers of the LNP to apply physical aggression and forceful arrests and assaults as a means of dispersing the protestors.
The Association says Liberians regardless of political dispensations, social and economic statuses, and tribal orientations, have the rights to free speech, movement and assembly as guaranteed under the 1986 constitution.
ALJA says as Liberians, the January 6th protestors, have the constitutional backing for free assembly and the rights to vent their anger about matters that affect their individual and collective wellbeing of their country; and to petition their leaders for corrective actions.
The Association asserts that as national leaders, President Weah and CDC have a moral obligation to listen to the people’s cries, provide clarifications and if necessary, take the needed concrete actions in addressing the national issues raised by the protestors.
In another development, ALJA is commending the decision by the Civil Law Court in favor of Punch FM against the Liberian government. On June 7, 2020, according to media reports, Judge Peter Gbeneweleh ruled there was no evidence the government could produce that PUNCH FM had not met the legal requirements to be issued a radio license to operate in the country.
According to reports, in June of 2018, the Liberian government announced that it was reviewing the country’s media sector for alleged anomalies, which prevented Punch FM from operating. Many believed the government’s regulation was issued specifically to prevent Punch FM, whose owner Mr. Patrick Honnah is a staunch critic of President Weah and the CDC government.