The Supreme Court was on Wednesday, September 24, compelled to postpone further hearings into a request to reopen the National Chronicle Newspaper filed by the Press Union of Liberia against the government.
The High Court’s action came after state lawyers contended they have not received a copy of the amended document filed by the PUL’s lawyers before the court.
The publisher of the paper, Philipbert Brown was recently arrested by the Liberia National Police (LNP) for publishing a story in which he said, “An interim government was being established in the United States of America to replace the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led government.”
Besides, government’s lawyers noted that the amended documents were so bulky and they needed more time to review it before going ahead with the case. They also asked the Court to cancel the scheduled September 24 hearing on the PUL’s amended motion.
However, the Justice in Chamber, Associate Justice Kabineh M. Ja’neh approved the request on Wednesday afternoon and subsequently postponed the case to Friday, September 26.
“Issues that were raised during said hearings and the processes it could have entailed for all involved to file their respective responsive pleadings such as comments and oppositions, or even motions, became a consideration,” the Associate Justice said before he would postpone the matter.
Earlier, the PUL’s lawyers decided to amend some wordings in their complaint to emphasize the constitutional basis for which the paper was closed.
Apart from replacing some of the words, the paper’s lawyers also wanted the High Court to interpret the constitutional violation committed by the paper.
“We did withdraw our request and filed another, amended on the basis of improving on what we had previously filed before the court,” Cllr. Syrenius Cephus added when he spoke with journalists after the hearings were suspended.
“This issue is very much dedicated and hopefully we might proceed before the full bench of the Supreme Court,” he noted, “because there are many constitutional issues that would require the intervention of the Full Bench.”
The PUL, in the petition, condemned the closure of the paper as a violation of press freedom and free speech as guaranteed under Article 15 (c) of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia.
The petition lamented that “the constitutional guarantee of the unlimited rights of the public to be informed” is being “threatened, hijacked and trampled upon by the arbitrary and illegal closure order of the offices of the national Chronicle Newspaper…”
The PUL emphasized the urgency of the petition “…to inhibit, restrain and prevent the unorthodox application of scare tactics and martial law practices adopted by the government…to prevent it from demonstrating a callous and blatant disregard for press freedom, individual rights as enshrined in the 1986 constitution of Liberia.”