Chief Justice Francis Korkpor yesterday boasted that at no time has the judicial branch of government intimidated journalists under his watch as head of the Supreme Court.
Although several journalists, including Rodney Sieh, founder, publisher and editor-in chief of FrontPage Africa newspaper, was jailed after the Supreme Court upheld a decision from the lower court ordering him to pay former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe US$1.5 million in libel damages and US$900,000 as court charges, Justice Korkpor said, the decision was in line with the law.
“If you were to follow the court in recent times involving cases with journalists, we squarely looked at their merits and demerits and if a journalist is wrong we say that person is wrong and if right we say you are right without any political influence,” the chief justice stated.
He made the assertion yesterday at the memorial service of fallen Journalist M. Wlemongai Ciapha II.
The service, held at the Temple of Justice, was organized by the Association of Judicial Reporters (AJR), an auxiliary of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL).
“There is no other influence whenever we decide cases regarding journalists,” said Chief Justice Korkpor, who used the occasion to underscore his long-time advocacy for the rights of journalists in Liberia. He said he would not let journalists suffer intimidation by the judiciary.
“I am saying that from year to year we have been defending freedom of the press. We defended journalists who were under attack at that time, and how would we now do otherwise?” wondered Justice Korkpor, who headed the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission before ascending to the Supreme Court Bench.
The Supreme Court boss reminded his audience that journalists who are covering the judiciary are confronted with difficult tasks.
“The judiciary is a difficult place to report, because whatsoever untrue thing you write jeopardizes the interest of the complainant and the defendant,” he said.
“It also affects and influences the decision of the jury and the judgment of the court.”
Earlier, in his brief message, Rev. Cisco Brown cautioned his audience to focus on leaving good legacies which people would forever remember them by, whenever they pass away.
Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe and Atty. Philip Wesseh (managing editor of Inquirer Newspaper) were among several speakers who praised the late Ciaphai, describing him as a “dutiful and dedicated journalist who performed his responsibilities to his best.”
M. Wlemongai Ciapha II died on October 20, 2016, after a brief illness and was buried in Salayea, Bong County. He worked as a judiciary reporter with several newspapers, including The Heritage, Daily Observer, FrontPage Africa, The News, The New Republic and, at the time of his death, The Inquirer.