Chief Justice Yuoh Seeks Media Regulation By: Yassah J. Wright

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The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, Her Honor Sie-A-Nyene G. Yuoh, has called on the national government and media union to put in place mechanism that will regulate the use of media across the country. Speaking Monday, May 6, 2024 at the ongoing African Regional Group Meeting and International Conference of the International Association of Judges, held under the Theme “The Judiciary in Contemporary Times: Dispensing Justice in the New Information Age,” at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, the Chief Justice intimated that the lack of control over the mass media is severely denting public confidence in the rule of law and the justice system. “I therefore safely submit here that the lack of effective oversight/supervision of these competing social media platforms is one of the most significant game-changer in mass communication; and this lack of control is severely denting public confidence in the rule of law and the justice system,” she said. Justice Yuoh intimated that it is true the mass media is making a positive influence on the justice system by enhancing public awareness, scrutiny, transparency, and accountability of internal operations of the justice system while serving as an intermediary between the courts and the public. However, she intimated that while these attributes are virtuous and notable, they are most times sacrificed on the alters of fame and profiteering as media practitioners fiercely compete within their respective industries, thus developing an animalistic desperation to remain ahead of the game, and maintain their audience at all cost The head of the Liberian Judiciary added that her assertion is supported by the fact that the issues surrounding free-speech, and checks and balances are overwhelmingly abused by online reporters who conveniently substitute accurate reporting for misinformation and sensational headlines.  Meanwhile, recognized that not all of those reporting and posting have any formal or informal training in mass communication and do not have the slightest thought or conviction as to the damaging effect their actions have on that innumerable population segment. “This assertion is supported by the fact that the issues surrounding free-speech, and checks and balances are overwhelmingly abused by online reporters who conveniently substitute accurate reporting for misinformation and sensational headlines.  Not forgetting the fact that not all of those reporting and posting have any formal or informal training in mass communication and do not have the slightest thought or conviction as to the damaging effect their actions have on that innumerable population segment.” Justice Yuoh alluded that a classic case in point is the recent decision rendered by the Criminal Assizes B,” First Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County in the case Republic of Liberia v. Lucas K. Richard, in which the prosecution indicted Lucas K. Richard for aggravated assault and criminal attempt to commit murder, felonies of the second degree.

She added that statistics show that the population of Liberia presently stands at approximately 5.5 million, with over half comprising those of youthful age. Recognizing that it is the fact that the youths are the fanatics of the internet, social media, etc and like any modern society globally, Liberian youths are hooked on this platform. “Imagine therefore, the said case involving a youthful Liberian female. I can tell you, that the general public and the media amuck with the story and rendered judgment of guilty against the defendant Lucas K. Richard, an adult white American national before the matter was adjudicated by the trial court. It therefore took no stretch of the imagination on the reaction of the general public, to include this large youth ful population, the mass media and this time around, some legislators, when the trial judge having reviewed the evidence, held that the State did not prove the charges as alleged in the indictment, found the defendant not guilty and dismissed the charges against him.” the Chief Justice stated. She added that media institutions and practitioners, bloggers, influencers and other internet users began to make denigrating statements against the Judge and the Judiciary Branch of Government as a whole, without so much as reading the trial judge’s final ruling in the case. Therefore, added that it is time to change the narrative and create media contents that are well-researched and that reflect the true happenings of events in the institutions covered instead of publishing sensational stories merely for fame and likes or in the case of youthful Liberia, just to prove one’s relevancy, although there is none to begin with. “It is time that we change the narrative and create media contents that are well- researched and that reflect the true happenings of events in the institutions covered instead of publishing sensational stories merely for fame and likes or in the case of youthful Liberia, just to prove one’s relevancy, although there is none to begin with.”

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