The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has expressed deep concern over the alleged harassment of Journalist Sekou V. Sheriff at the hands of immigration officers at the Roberts International Airport.
Sheriff, CEO of Voice of Liberia, a commercial broadcaster operating in Liberia on a business trip to Ghana according to the PUL was prevented from boarding his flight by immigration officers citing an order barring him from leaving Liberia due to a legal dispute with Commerce Minister, Mawine Diggs.
After seeking help from politicians and media contacts regarding his detention, immigration Commissioner Col. Robert Buddy clarified that there was no travel restriction (Ne Exeat República) against Journalist Sheriff preventing him from traveling.
The dispute between Sheriff and Minister Diggs began after Sheriff’s broadcast on his widely listened-to breakfast show, alleging that the minister had sold a Liberian Embassy in Belgium and was involved in moving large sums of money from Liberia to the United States.
Minister Diggs, following the broadcast, filed various charges including criminal cohesion, blackmailing, harassment, and disorderly conduct against the journalist.
Accordingly, Sheriff’s legal representatives responded appropriately, and was requested by the judge to report to court on Friday of each week, until the matter was laid to rest, an order that was followed until his absence at a subsequent court hearing, leading to the issuance of a second Writ of Arrest, despite his legal representation being present.
He has meanwhile made another appearance before the Monrovia City Court, where he paid a fine for contempt of court due to his absence from the recent hearing. The Magistrate of the Monrovia City Court also authorized a bond for the second Writ of Arrest issued against the journalist.
The press union emphasized on the need for courts to fairly evaluate cases without aiming to imprison a journalist who holds significant investments in a radio station, and other businesses in Liberia.
While discouraging attacks on individuals, the Union urges officials like the Minister of Commerce to handle news about them with tolerance, rather than resorting to seeking imprisonment for those who accused them.