The Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) has decried the prolonged seizure of the offices and the ban of the Chronicle Newspaper and calls on Government to restore newspaper’s right to operate. In a press release, the Publishers group said 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 if the ban on the operations of the newspaper and the closure of its offices were lifted unconditionally.
A fortnight ago, dozens of armed police officers in a truck and two pickups stormed the Chronicle Newspaper, tear-gassed and stampeded at the offices of the paper before sealing it up. Though two editors were arrested on the evening of the event, the Publisher Philipbert Browne, was not but has since the ban been subjected to daily mental torture of reporting to the Headquarter of the Liberia National Police for questioning.
Government on August 16 via the Ministry of Information, in a letter to the Chronicle management, said it was freezing the publishing rights of the newspaper over a series of its publications bordering secret transitional plans against the Sirleaf administration.
The Chronicle management has complained that government agents who effectuated its closure took away two laptops from its offices.
PAL says it is concerned about the continued ban on the Chronicle Newspaper and seizure of properties under the guise of investigating its publisher, Mr. Philipbert Browne, an investigation seemingly made pointless and timeless only to justify a continued ban.
The publishers’ association has stressed that as a responsible government which professedly espouses the rule of law and press freedom, the Sirleaf administration should pursue the legally accepted option of lawsuit against the Chronicle, a legally registered and accredited corporate body, instead of resorting to arbitrariness or secret probes.
According to the Publishers group, Liberia has already got national health emergency and other difficult socioeconomic challenges on hand to grapple with as to be distracted and compounded by attacks on the media which is, and should be, a strategic partner in the fight.
PAL calls on Government to therefore remove the ban on the Chronicle and free its Publisher from further secret investigation.