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Journalist's camera confiscated by chief justice, later returned to him

(CEMESP/IFEX) - On 20 November 2008, the chief justice of Liberia, Johnny Lewis, ordered a camera belonging to a local journalist seized and confiscated after the journalist attempted to take a photograph of Lewis.

Journalist Sando Moore said that Chief Justice Lewis ordered United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) soldiers to seize the journalist's camera while he was attempting to take photographs on the grounds of the Temple of Justice in Monrovia. The Temple of Justice is the chief justice's office building. Moore works for the "Daily Observer" newspaper in Monrovia.

According to Moore, when the chief justice noticed that a photograph was being taken of him, he stopped to inquire as to why the journalist was taking his picture. The journalist told Lewis that because he is a "public figure" he decided to have his photograph for future use, an explanation that apparently did not satisfy the chief justice. After these exchanges, Lewis ordered his UNMIL assigned bodyguards to forcibly seize the journalist's camera. A tussle ensued between the journalist and the UNMIL soldiers who succeeded in confiscating the camera. The incident took place in the presence of associate justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia and several lawyers.

Lewis later returned the camera to Moore after the Press Union of Liberia, the umbrella group of journalists in the country, intervened. In a 21 November statement, the press union threatened the chief justice with an unspecified action and gave him a 48-hour ultimatum calling for the return of the camera.

In a 22 November meeting with Moore, the managing director of the "Daily Observer" and a host of other journalists, Lewis said he regretted the situation and returned the camera.

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