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Staff members of critical newspaper summoned to court for reporting judge's statement: "a calculated attempt to intimidate," says editor

(CEMESP/IFEX) - The editors and a reporter of "The Public Agenda", one of Liberia's best investigative newspapers, has been summoned by the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Court A for Montserrado county, to answer to charges of contempt of court over an article published in its pages.

According to a writ of summons issued to the newspaper, a copy of which is in the possession of CEMESP, the court ordered its editors and reporter Ora Garway to appear before it on 23 April 2008, to show cause, if any, as to why they should not be held in contempt of the court for a publication in the 21 April edition of "The Public Agenda", entitled: "Judge Frustrated".

The article in question quoted the Presiding Judge of Criminal Court A, Peter Gbeneweleh, announcing in open court that he was frustrated over the slow pace of the treason trial involving two former armed forces officers. The newspaper further quoted Gbeneweleh as urging lawyers in the ongoing trial not to allow the trial to run into the May term of court.

The political editor of "The Public Agenda", Sherman Seequeh, told CEMESP that the action by the court is a calculated attempt to intimidate the newspaper.

Seequeh said he wonders why a judge would make such a remark in open court and then turn around to summon a newspaper for reporting it.

"The Public Agenda"is the second newspaper to have reported the statement by Gbeneweleh. The first was "The Analyst".

Seequeh further described the court order as an attempt to silence "The Public Agenda", an institution in the vanguard of exposing the ills of Liberian society.

CEMESP is closely following the case.

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