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Liberian Court Temporarily Lifts Ban on Newspaper

  • James Butty

The Supreme Court of Liberia has temporarily lifted the ban on The Independent newspaper that had published the sex photo of former minister of state for presidential affairs Willis Knuckles.

The government had banned the paper on the grounds that the paper exposed Liberian youths to pornography. But in its ruling, the court urged a return to the status quo and asked the government to show cause why the ban should not be lifted by this Thursday.

Sam Dean is managing director for The Independent newspaper. He tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty he’s pleased with the court’s ruling.

“We are happy that the court can see reason to make sure that the due process exists in our young democracy. We are very happy for the decision of the court to allow us to publish as an independent paper, and we will continue to abide by the rules of the Republic of Liberia,” he said.

The government revoked The Independent newspaper’s license for one year for publishing the photograph of Knuckles in a sex act with two women. Even some in the media criticized The Independent for publishing the photo. But Dean says his paper was only printing the truth.

“There is no news without truth because when there is no truth, then of course, we are being blasted at by the same public. But again, we have an obligation to the public that indeed we should provide proof, and we put that photograph on the basis of truth,” he said.

Dean alleges that his life and the lives of his editors have been under constant threat from Liberian security agents since their paper published the photograph.

“My life has been threatened, and I have complained to the Ministry of Justice and to the Press Union of Liberia. I see no reason why we should be threatened by state security and family of Mr. Knuckles. I think that was harassment, intimidation, and the threat on my life and my reporters and other staff I think that was not good for our young democracy in Liberia,” he said.

Dean told the Accra-based Media Foundation of West Africa that he needed assistance to leave Liberia because of the threat to his life. But he told VOA that he has been advised by his lawyers not to leave the country while his case is still under adjudication. He said he would like to resume publishing as soon as possible.

“We are having a mass meeting on Wednesday, the editorial staff will decide what next course action would be. But I believe that we should publish. But I don’t have all the say regarding publishing because we have an editorial board, and my safety and the paper’s security guarantee is more important that the publication of the paper,” Dean said.