The Press Union of Liberia has vowed to challenge through the courts state prosecutors threats to shutdown media institutions that they deem culpable of dissimilating ‘fake news’ during the current state of emergency imposed on the country.
The State of Emergency is the lead measure deployed to contain the spread of coronavirus in Liberia.
In a release Wednesday, the Union asserted that it has already alerted its team of lawyers in preparation to respond to any attack on the media.
The Union believes that such threat is intended to intimidate the Media and force journalists into self censorship.
The Union insists that the current emergency is focus on health and that using it to intimidate the press under the edges of fake news including the curtailing of media freedom violates constitutional rights.
Article 15 of the Liberian Constitution protects freedom of the press. It is further strengthened by Liberia’s decriminalization of speech offenses which the Weah Administration trumpeted will create an unfettered media environment in the country.
Chapter 11 of the Penal Law of 1978 has been amended as well as section 11.11 on Criminal Libel against the President; 11.12 on Sedition and 11.14 on Criminal Malevolence.
Current legal regimes of the media in Liberia, the Press Union asserts forbids arbitrary closure of media institutions. To alleged that some media institutions have been using their platforms to spread ‘fake news’ without naming them represents intolerance for public scrutiny of the government. The Union says while it supports high level of professionalism and denounce bad journalism such threat by Liberia’s Solicitor General, Cllr. Sayma Sayrenius Cephas is a clear indication of plans within the Weah Administration to clampdown on the Media.
The leadership of the PUL wants members of the Union and all journalists to remain steadfast, committed and dedicated to duty and report the facts without fear or favor. Moreover, the Press Union of Liberia says access to internet platforms are rooted in freedom of expression which are drivers of cohesive societies and must not be allowed to be altered by thin skin rulers. Any plan to curtail the convocation of ideas online will escalate the country reputation on the list of states notorious for stifling dissent on social media
Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia is urging health authorities to start the update on the fight against COVID-19 visually. The visual update will end the risking journalists who cover the tri-weekly briefings. News outlets are asked by the Union to end the deployment of their staff at the COVID-19 Update to avoid endangering their health.