ALJA Demands Evidence For Arresting Journalist Bility and Others
(A Statement Issued ALJA on July 1, 2002)
July 4, 2002
The Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas (ALJA) expresses grave concern over the arrest and continued detention of the Editor-In-Chief of the Analyst Newspaper, Mr. Hassan Bility and two others for their alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow President Charles Taylor and cause havoc in Monrovia.
We are very troubled by this recent development and disappointed that Messrs. Bility, Ansumana Kamara and Mohammed Kamara continue to languish behind bars without been duly charged and tried by the Government in accordance with the Liberian Constitution.
Considering the Government's past action against Mr. Bility and the Analyst Newspaper and the Liberian press in general, we are beginning to wonder whether the latest incident is not a move by the Government to finally silence Mr. Bility and intensify its anti-media campaign and stifle freedom of the press and free speech.
We demand that the Government provides evidence it claims it has against Mr. Bility and others and prove beyond all reasonable doubt that those arrested concocted a plan to assassinate Mr. Taylor and cause havoc in Monrovia in collaboration with prominent Liberians in the United States, using computerized communication system, as alleged by the Taylor administration.
It is imperative that the Government institutes speedy, free and fair trials for the detainees and ensure that their constitutional rights are protected at every step of the proceedings, including the right to legal counsel of their choice and immediate visitation by their families and colleagues.
While the Government is yet to convince the vast majority of the Liberian people, the international community and the Liberian media about the legality of its action relative to the allegations, we demand that the detainees be considered innocent of the charges leveled against them until proven guilty. Additionally, we request that the accused be held in a detention facility which meets international standards and operations, including access to legal advise and contacts with their immediate families.
We strongly believe that any attempt by the Government to deny our colleague and others being held justice by delaying the prosecution of this matter, brings into question the Government's sincerity about reconciliation and further cast a shadow over the pending Government sponsored National Reconciliation Conference slated to take place this month in Monrovia.
We urge our colleagues in Liberia and other democratic institutions not to relent in advocating for the rights of Mr. Bility and others to be tried in a court of competent jurisdiction and ensure that the Liberian media continues to operate without intimidation and harassment by the Taylor Government.
Finally, ALJA wishes to remind the Taylor Government that freedom of the press and free expression are legitimate and basic inalienable rights guaranteed the Liberian people, by the Constitution, which Mr. Taylor swore to uphold. These rights must never be compromised in any fashion, shape and form.
Cyrus Wleh Badio
S. Togba Slewion