Chief Justice Korkpor: “Judges Are Targets of Negative Media Reporting”

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Chief Justice Francis Korkpor wants the Liberian media exercise due diligence to any story about the country's justice system.

After weeks of media coverage of the impeachment trial of former Associate Justice Kabineh Mohammed Ja’neh, Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor says justices and judges are becoming frequent targets of negative media reporting based on judgments (opinions) they deliver in cases before their respective courts.

Justice Korkpor presided over Associate Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment trial that brought down a guilty verdict against him on one of four counts. That count had to do with the granting a Writ of Prohibition (petitioned) filed against the Government by petroleum dealers in the country to prevent the collection of levy/taxes of US$0.25 imposed on the pump price of petroleum products for the National Road Fund.

The Chief Justice then called on media practitioners and their managers to exercise due diligence to justices of the Supreme Court, or any of the subordinate courts whenever they report about judgments (opinions) delivered in a case.

“Do not give the public wrong impression about (us) justices’ judgment. Let your reporting be accurate and objective; even if we were to be in the wrong, we can say sorry, because judges are human beings, who can gravely err,” Justice Korkpor said.

His admonition was contained in an extemporaneous speech he recently delivered at the close of a five-day capacity building workshop of Judicial reporters at the Temple of Justice.

The training was jointly organized by United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Internews in collaboration with the Public Affairs Section of the Judiciary on Capitol Hill.

Korkpor stressed the need for the media and the judiciary to work together to sustain the country’s peace, “but sometimes, your reporting makes some of the judges and justices to appear as a monster in the eyes of the public, so such reporting needs to stop.”

He the expressed gratitude to the media for following, and reporting on courtroom’ activities, stressing, “your unbalanced reporting can create negative perception about us as judges to the extent that it can cause the public to lose confidence in the country’s justice system. That is so bad.”

“Please try to do due diligence to justices of the Supreme Court by reporting the truth so that the public can speak and judge for themselves about our way of handling judgments,” the chief justice pleaded.

“We are friends, and we complement each other, because we need you to reach our work to the public, that is propagate the good news about what we do in the courtroom, but your reporting about the judiciary sometimes undermines the public trust of the justice system,” the Chief Justice said.

“Justices and judges are not enemy of the media, so whenever you need any clarity about judgment of the justices, including myself, be comfortable to come to us for it. In this way, you can report the right information to the public,” the Chief Justice added.

According to him, judges do not work in secret, so it would be good if journalists were to seek verification about the judgment before opining that a judge was engaged in corrupt practices.

“If your reporting were to injure a judge or justice, it does not affect that individual alone, but the entire judiciary thus making people to lose confidence in the country’s justice system. This misgiving has the propensity to make the public take law into their own hands. This is not good for our country,” Justice Korkpor added.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Chief Justice Korkpor has a valid point. Newspaper writers, columnists or edittorial writers are expected to report the truth and be fair. On the other hand, it would be premature to think that people who work in news industry will not be somehow cavalier with the truth. Sometimes, the truth is stretched by news writers because of their hate or biases. This has been the case throughout history. Fake reporting of the news will always happen. The best that Justice Korkpor could do is to stop being thin-skinned.

  2. If Chief Justice Korkpor wants the media to report good news, then the Judiciary needs to clean house. Most Liberians don’t have faith in the Judiciary because it is perceived as corrupt. In fact Liberians generally don’t have confidence in the leadership of George Weah. So, the entire system is broken now.

  3. “Chief Justice Francis Saye Korkpor says justices and judges are becoming frequent targets of negative media reporting based on judgments (opinions) they deliver in cases before their respective courts.”

    How lucky is Chief Justice Korkpor, he’s only getting negative press for his “judgment (opinion)” but Justice Ja’neh was not that lucky, he was impeached for his “judgment (opinion). So just shut up about negative press.

  4. Phil,
    You’ve made the point that Liberia’s judicial system is corrupt. Yours is a factual statement that can only be disagreed with by an irrational individual.

    On the other hand, you went on to say that, “In fact Liberians generally don’t have confidence in the leadership of George Weah. So, the entire system is broken”. Okay, let’s agree that you are entitled to free speech. Of course, you cannot be denied the opportunity to state your opinions. But, I believe there’s a catch.

    The catch is that throughout Liberia’s 172-year history, the country’s judicial system was never found to be in a perfect or a semi-perfect situation. I stand to be corrected. So, if you could, will it be possible to let your readers know when Liberia’s judicial system came close to being in a top shape? Maybe under Joseph Jenkins Robert it was perfect. But there’s no record to validate such a claim.
    We both agree that Korkpor is in a joking mode when he complains about fairness. No one takes him seriously. Of course, Ja’neh was recently impeached by his peers. We know for sure that Ja’neh was a member of that system. Where was Korkpor?

  5. In recent memory, Liberians have never had confidence in any leadership, and alias Phil George controls the various polling data to support that; or, better still, he is going to single-handedly elect the next leader. When partisan-driven opinions are nonchalantly peddled, they don’t only damage reputation of particular institutions, for example the judiciary, but also impact far-reaching perceptions of the country.

    And despite shrilly abuses from some overt and covert media practitioners, the latter for those with “right-to be-anonymous, few of us will continue to say that by no stretch is our media space following key journalistic standards of accuracy, impartiality/ fairness, humanity, and accountability. Thus, for journalists that don’t give a damn about their own professional ethics to engage in stoking anti-establishment discontent at any given opportunity alarms a lot of people.

    As medical doctor and A U Ambassador to the US Mrs. Chihombori-Quao, in a conversation on “you tube.com”, told an interviewer, the West use Africans to overthrow African governments and the more destabilized our continent the cheaper her resources. The 2011 Arab Spring showed that rather than use soldiers, foreign covert aggression agents are penetrating and directing news outlets and social networks trolls to galvanize so-called “popular uprisings”. Of course, Chief Justice Korkpor is right to be worried; so too should the other two branches of government. (To be forewarned, is to be forearmed!).

  6. Yes your Liberian people, your no good! When Willie Tolbert started to straighten that country, your killed him. Jumping in the street singing country women burn soldiers and Congo women burn ROUGE. Here we are country people. Name me one country man as you referred to yourself that have not stolen since we started appointing people like TOGBA, FLOMO, ZOGAR, KOLLIE,ZAZAY, NYEPAN, SIAFA, MOMO to the various ministries. Name me one. Then the so call justice is complaining of fake news. What fake about what we seeing? Was that a slip of the tounge or he meant fact news. Just a thought, not a sermon,👀

  7. Be careful people on the words you use for you don’t know the harm it will cause. I know Chief Justice personally and know him to be a man of integrity and strength. He has stayed above the pettiness and bickering rife in this basket of crabs we call our home. With each climbing on top of the other to be powerful. The Liberian people need to be worried about the status of things right now. Only look to the fake news in the Ukraine and France to see the consternation is causing. NPR.org will tell you the story of the harm that fake news did in the Ukraine. Listen to the wise among you.

  8. Camad,
    It is very possible that you know Mr. Korkpor. I concur with you about the fact that Korkpor is a man of integrity. However, I see no way in which Korkpor is being minimized. What should be understood is that all men of integrity are humans. Unfortunately, all humans make “dumb mistakes” sometimes. Korkpor is very careful with his choice of words. That’s positive. However, Korkpor’s call for the country’s judges to be spared the wrath of newspaper writers and those in the court of public opinion sounds like an infantile joke.

    The issue to be reckoned with is that our country’s judicial system needs to be patched up. Korkpor cannot pretend that he doesn’t know how some judges (the very people he defends) have manipulated the country’s judicial system. I will give you a few examples:

    1. Just recently, a sitting magistrate gave orders for a Nigerian national to go to Nigeria in order to be medically treated. The Nigerian national was a quuck-tempered banker who bloodied the lips of a Liberian employee. Let’s not forget that the Nigerian “phone thrower” was in custody when the dishonorable magistrate gave orders for his departure out of Liberia. Where was Korkpor? Why was he silent?

    2. In Sinoe county, a bewithched team of two ladies were served a mob Justice for their transgressions. The ladies were paraded in the nude and badly beaten because they were accused of being witches. I am not in defense of the egregious act that was committed by the ladies. The point is that mob action served as the country’s judicial system in that episode. So the question is where was Korkpor? Or, if he is concerned about judicial temperament, where does he make an indelible mark?

    Given our closeness with the US, our judicial system should have been the very best in Africa! I understand that the press personnel should be careful according to how they do their job. But, it is equally befitting for Korkpor to demonstrate that the resurgence of mob activity and corruption will be brought under control. Until he takes an activist stand, Korkpor will continue to be lambasted.

  9. A wise person once said, “When you approach a problem, strip yourself of preconceived opinions and prejudice, assemble and learn the facts of the situation, make the decision which seems to you to be the most honest, and then stick to it.”

    Chief Justice Korkpor, as an astute legal interpreter of the constitution and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, followed the constitutional guideline and executed his duty in presiding over the impeachment hearings of his fellow Associate Justice Ja’neh. This indeed was not an easy task because there was no legal precedent for him to follow in impeaching a sitting Supreme Court Justice if my Liberian history is right.

    Nevertheless, if Chief Justice Korkpor did his job honestly and professionally with no preconceived opinions and prejudice, then there is nothing for him to worry about. He should hold his head high and maintain his good character and reputation in rendering unbiased judgments in the best of his ability as the constitution dictates. His good works should speak for the press to write about.

    On the other hand, it is indeed regrettable to solely remove a sitting Justice (Ja’neh) on grounds that he rendered unfavorable decisions against the government. Former Justice Ja’neh purportedly denied the government from collecting the imposed U.S.$0.25 taxes levied against petroleum dealers. Justice Ja’neh’s impeachment, solely based on his judicial decision against the government, sets a dangerous precedent for future decisions made by the Supreme Court Justices: some of which could be deemed unsatisfactory to Congress.

    Therefore, will they (Justices) too be subject or targeted for impeachment in the future?
    How will the integrity of the Supreme Court be maintained such gangster-like behavior for impeachment is used as a threat, blackmail, or bargaining chip to sway decisions in favor of the Legislative or Executive Branch?

    If Congress was dissatisfied with Justice Ja’neh’s decision, then congress had the options of changing the tax laws (they make the laws), or Congress had the option of waiting until a new judge is appointed who is less conservative and more progressive to go along with what congress wants. Impeaching Justices because of judicial decisions they rendered is detrimental to the integrity and independence of the Supreme Court.

    Some cases in point: In the United States, “Citizen United vs FCC” was a controversial case (5-4) decision in Jan. 21, 2010. However, those justices that decided in favor of this landmark case were not impeached for their radical decision.

    Similarly, the controversial abortion case of “Roe vs Wade” is still waiting for more conservative Judges to be confirmed. Hopefully, they (conservative judges) too would one day overturn the controversial abortion rights decision rendered in 1973. Judges are not impeached for controversial decisions as was done in Justice Ja’neh’s case.

    Despite some negativity and unprofessionalism now exhibited by few media outlets, proclaiming that they are exercising their press freedom, Liberians should also be grateful to the press for playing a vital role in conveying news to world during Liberia’s dark days of death and destruction.

    Liberia’s integrity can only be restored by Liberians respecting Liberians; by Liberians working towards nation building; and by Liberians respecting the rules of Law.

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