By Gbe Sneh
March 8, 2004
The importance of breaking the "Culture of Silence" that has pervaded our society could not be vividly demonstrated by the contents of an article written by an ordinary citizen, and the gigantic result it yielded.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the city of Monrovia was awash with the repercussions stemming from an "obscene" article published by The Heritage Newspaper. The explicitness with which the information was displayed incurred the wrath of the women of Monrovia. A women's group picketed the newspaper and the information source, Mr. George Dweh, interim Speaker of the House, RL.
Speaker Dweh claims, while on one of his numerous state visits, this one in Europe, he stumbled on the video tape that shows Liberian girls having sex with dogs. Now we have an idea as to how he spends some of the huge per diems he is allotted for these trips -- night clubbing at porno joints. Why didn't he purchase a copy of the tape, his pocket was loaded "for free?" That way, since prudence eluded him, as he was so keen on getting the results of his fact-finding mission to the press, the press would have used real photos instead of settling for a caricature. Instead of an apology, the women should have demanded the Speaker's resignation.
Anyway, that's a lesson to have in mind when we go to the polls next year. Know whom you choose as a government official when you exercise your vote when the time comes. Don't waste your vote on careless people. Your vote is too important!
Having set the stage, let's now move to the "Citizen's Arrest." Our government's reaction to the published article was to arrest Mohammed Kanneh, managing editor, Alfred Chea, editor-in-chief, Augustus Bortue, news editor, Nathan Bengu, sub-editor, Meekie Mckay, sales manager, and Massah Smbola, sales representative, all of the Heritage News.
Enter our hero, the man who arrested the government flush in its tracks!
Kolec E. Jessey, writer,
Journalists. We hail him as a national hero! Read the full text since
the attempt here is to simply summarize the contents.
The article did not reveal Mr. Jessey as being a lawyer. Just the common sense punctuation that a newspaper is a corporate entity, and as such shields its stakeholders from individual prosecutions has brought the government to its knees in its suit filled against the staff of the Heritage Newspaper. The law suit filed could have enjoyed a legal status had a need been found enabling the "Piercing of the Corporate Veil". This is a special case where the personal interests (notably financial in nature) of individual members of the company become so commingled with those of the corporation that the two become inseparable. Then, and only then, are such individuals liable for any criminal charges leveled against the company.
See the article, Court Case Against Newspaper Dismissed.
What this gentleman has done is to serve notice to the authorities that the days of "trumped-up" charges and summary incarcerations are no longer acceptable. The days when a "big shark" (sorry, had to use the real Liberia twine here) would just recklessly make a citizen's arrest of anyone in the street, are history. Never mind that the lawyers of the then accused staff used the argument of a corporation as an entity to get the case thrown out of court. Chalk that off as a precipitation from Mr. Jessie's article. If the lawyers had banked on the said argument prior to Jessey's article, the case should not have found its way in the courts.
As simple as it may appear, this is a landmark achievement by an ordinary
citizen. Those among us who think that whatever they have to say regarding
our national interest does not count, need to, and must take a cue from
Just think that only a few months back, the poor citizens that work for a newspaper would be languishing in prison, never mind even getting their day in court.
Your voice counts, so will your vote in 2005.
Thank you Mr. Jessey for being a conscientious citizen.