The Society of Liberian Journalists (SLJ) sees the Supreme Court of Liberia September 4 ruling suspending Mr. Isaac Jackson – Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization from law practice for one year for criticizing Chief Justice Francis Korkpor as a worrying concern for freedom of expression, democracy and the rule of law.
For more than two years, Jackson, a lawyer has been seeking legal relief after President George Weah removed him from the role he had argued was tenured office and denied diplomatic passport while on foreign soil with his family.The Court heard Jackson is a diplomatic official and subject to recall.
SLJ is however concern about the free speech implication of the ruling. The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court should be more concern about the issue of law and not judging a citizen on the basis of personal feelings, like and dislike.SLJ has seen no court record that Mr. Jackson benefited from the constitutional requirement of due process.
The Jurists acted in gross violation of Judicial Canon Sixteen, which stipulates a judge should not be swayed away by partisan demands, public clamor, or consideration of personal popularity or notoriety, nor be apprehensive of unjust criticisms.
“Sanctioning Jackson for exercising his constitutional right to freely express his opinion is a direct attack on the foundation of the state and an affront to the framers of the constitution and founding fathers of the Republic,” SLJ Executive Director Octavin Williams said.
“The Supreme Court ruling penalizing free speech must be condemned by all who believe in the principles and values of democracy and the rule of law.”
SLJ wonders what will be the moral standing of the Supreme Court should the President of the Republic orders the mass imprisonment of his critics including judges who are deemed unfavorable to his cause. Such action would be arbitrary, authoritarian and tyrannical.
Thus the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend Jackson’s law practice, demand unwarranted apology and threaten permanent debarment is naked abuse of judicial power.
The Society of Liberian Journalists is the umbrella organization for professional practicing Liberian journalists, which advocates for press freedom, freedom of expression, democracy and social justice.