Gov’t Somersaults… Revokes Gag Order

The government of Liberia prosecuting arm, the Ministry of Justice, has again slipped back on its decision by filing a notice of withdrawal before the Criminal Court “C” to revoke its previous order prohibiting all media institutions from discussing or publishing any recordings growing from the case of Economic Sabotage involving Madam Ellen Cockrum.

The withdrawal notice came barely few days following a court’s stance ordering all radio stations and newspapers to publish the prohibition and refrain from holding any programs on the discussion of Economic Sabotage and other issues which might relate to Madam Cockrum’s activities in the country.

The ‘Gag’ Order further restrained the media from holding talk shows, making publications, broadcasting or disseminating by radio, any interview, discussions or tapes and or any recording including meetings and discussions of officials of government while she was serving as Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA).

The order which was signed on November 26 and released to the public on November 30 was greeted with criticisms from the public and denounced by the umbrella organization of the media, the Press Union of Liberia.

This argument became the hinge for discussions among the electronic media and ideas put forth by the public led to the intervention of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had to address the situation and reported via the same medium on Monday evening that the Ministry of Justice was working in that direction to have the order revoked apparently due to its ineptness.

Yesterday, Judge A. Blamo Dixon again issued another court order revoking the previous order with the direct reading, “The court’s order prohibiting publication of any matter relating to the activities of co-respondent Ellen Cockrum in Liberia as former Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority including meetings and discussions of officials of the government of the Republic of Liberia as it relates directly or indirectly to the above mentioned case is hereby revoked and declared null and void ab initio.”

The court declared that the revocation notice shall constitute ‘sufficient notice and legal authority’ granting all media institutions to continue holding discussions, publishing and granting interviews on Cockrum’s meetings and discussions with officials of government relating directly or indirectly to the case mentioned while the government of Liberia goes ahead in perfecting its indictment on the charge of ‘Economic Sabotage, theft of property, criminal conspiracy, misapplication of entrusted property’ against her and several others which amounted to US$1 million.

Madam Cockrum, the ousted Managing Director of the LAA along with others was indicted by the Government of Liberia for corrupt practices for allegedly stealing and or misappropriating nearly US$1 million, the Ministry of Justice termed as ‘defrauding the Government of Liberia.’

But Madam Cockrum who claimed to have been sneaked out of the country by officials of government so that she could see her children and mother again turned the clock by filing an Action for Damages suit of US$ 25 million against the Management of the LAA and its Board of Directors.

Since then, Madam Cockrum who fled justice has been releasing tape recordings clandestinely obtained while in conversation with top government officials which has drawn intense public debate and shamed and injured the character of those involved with her discussions.

However, the Ministry of Justice filed a 9-count Bill of Information before the court requesting a halt on the publication and talk shows and or interview relating to the case and interestingly the case being highlighted in the court’s order for prohibition was not about the clandestine tape recordings instead it was growing out of the case of ‘Economic Sabotage and theft of property,’ a matter that the accused (Madam Cockrum) evaded by releasing several tape recordings now in series.