The Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) has expressed its concern about the continued ban on the Chronicle Newspaper and the seizure of properties under the guise of investigating its publisher, Mr. Philipbert Browne.
In a statement the PAL issued this week, the group observed that the prolonged ‘secret investigation’ is not only a distraction from pressing national affairs, but should not withhold the newspaper’s right to publish without due process.
The PAL admonished the Sirleaf Administration that, as a responsible government which professes and espouses the rule of law and press freedom, GOL should pursue the legally prescribed option of legal proceedings against the Chronicle if, indeed, the paper has transgressed, instead of resorting to arbitrariness or secret probes. The Chronicle, after all, is a legally registered and accredited corporate body.
The Publishers association also reminds the Government that Liberia has more pressing priorities – a national health emergency and other difficult socioeconomic challenges – to grapple with than to be distracted and compounded by attacks on the media which is, and should be, a strategic partner in the fight.
PAL therefore called upon the Government of Liberia to lift the ban on the Chronicle and free its Publisher from further secret investigation.
“It is in the interest of the government’s long-checkered relationship with the media and its professed commitment to press freedom and free speech,” PAL president, Stanley Seakor said, “if the ban on the operations of the newspaper and the closure of its offices were lifted unconditionally.”
Two weeks ago, dozens of armed police officers in a truck and two pickups stormed the offices of the Chronicle Newspaper and tear-gassed the place before sealing it up. Two editors were immediately arrested, while the publisher, Philipbert Browne, has since been subjected to reporting daily to the headquarters of the Liberia National Police for questioning.
In a letter to the Chronicle management, dated August 16, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Information, said it was freezing the publishing rights of the newspaper over a series of its publications bordering secret transitional plans against the Sirleaf administration. According to the Chronicle management, government agents who effectuated its closure took away two laptops from its offices.