Union of Liberia has given the country’s Chief Justice – Johnny Lewis - a
48-hour ultimatum to return still cameras he ordered his security to seize from
a 30-year veteran photo journalist. Journalists had gone to the Supreme Court
of Liberia Thursday to cover some important cases which were being heard there,
including the case against former interim president Gyude Bryant.
Sando Moore, editorial supervisor and director of photography for the independent Daily
Observer newspaper, told VOA
Chief Justice Johnny Lewis ordered his security to
confiscate the cameras because the Chief Justice did not want his picture
started taking pictures of the dignitaries just before the court opened,
including lawyers and associate justices. When the Chief Justice arrived, I
took a picture of his convoy, and then as he disembark from the car, I also
took a picture of him. Then I decided to move closer to do a close up shot of
him. To my utmost surprise, the Chief Justice asked me, why did you take my
picture? He told the UMIL (United Nations peacekeepers in Liberia) soldier to
seize my camera. He (the soldier) threatened to break my camera if I didn’t
release the camera to him,” he said.
said he released the camera to the Chief Justice’s security for fear he could
damage the camera by trying to wrestle it from the security.
said Chief Justice Lewis has had a history of being harsh on the media for
about few months ago, the Chief Justice had come down on the press, especially
editors. In fact he said that some people were misspelling his name. He even
gave us a warning, saying that come the New Year, which was this year, if
anybody was found printing his name in the newspaper or anywhere else without
the correct spelling, he would deal with that person,” Moore said.
said while he was not too surprised by the Chief Justice’s order to confiscate
his camera, he was shocked that it would happen at a time that Liberia is
supposed to be enjoying a new democratic dispensation.
the Chief Justice to behave in that manner, I was taken aback because I have
thought that we were done with all these kinds of arbitrary actions from power
brokers. I tell you, the Chief Justice was completely arbitrary, and I would
term that as an abuse of power. I said to myself, if the Chief Justice, who is
supposed to be final arbiter of justice in the country, can treat me like this,
whom do I run to if somebody offends me in this country. I felt very bad about
that,” he said.
said the Press Union of Liberia has given the Chief Justice a 48-hour ultimatum
to return the confiscate equipment.
“The Press Union came out
and gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the Chief Justice to return my camera and
apologize to me for infringing on my human rights. The Press Union President,
George Barpeen, said if he (the Chief Justice) does not comply with the
ultimatum, he would face the wrath of the Liberian press,” Moore said.
Moore described Chief
Justice Lewis as unpredictable and said he was not sure if the Chief Justice
would heed the press union’s ultimatum.
“It’s difficult for me to
say because the Chief Justice is somebody who is very unpredictable when it
comes to dealing with the press. At times people think that he’s a law unto
himself. He does things that nobody would imagine that a chief justice would do
during this era of a new political dispensation. So to be frank with you, I
can’t say whether the Chief Justice will give me my camera or whether he won’t
do it,” Moore said.