International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Legal Eagle Advice on Our Comments: Let’s Show Respect To Everybody

Hi readers,

During the week, a few readers objected to some of the comments that were appearing on this site, particularly those related to former Liberian president, Charles Taylor.   Nii Darku, for example, said this: “Charles G. Taylor is a hard core criminal” this is not acceptable. I do not this you will allow it used on any one on this forum.”  Others agreed.  Noko 5, for instance, said in response to Nii: “…Just to add to your voice, I just don’t understand why this site allows people to say anything to Mr. Taylor with impunity or any form of repremend for that matter…..I definitly feel it is very very and I say , absolutely wrong for people to be throwing insults at him here.” Others, such as King Gray, thought it was okay as long as the policy was applied fairly to both sides (prosecution and defense).

After checking with some freedom of expression experts and our own in-house counsel here, we are not changing our policy (which is to focus on the issues related to the trial, and not to personally attack other readers) — but we are going to be more active in reinforcing an element of the terms and conditions for using this site (You can find the full terms and conditions available here:  http://www.charlestaylortrial.org/about/terms/)

In particular, this part is the most important for us (though it is written in horrid legalese):

“You will not post, transmit, or otherwise make available, through or in connection with the Site:

  • Anything that is or may be (a) threatening, harassing, degrading, hateful or intimidating; (b) defamatory; (c) fraudulent or tortious; (d) obscene, indecent, pornographic or otherwise objectionable; or (e) protected by copyright, trademark, trade secret, right of publicity or other proprietary right without the express prior consent of the owner of such right.”

What this means for us is this: no matter who we are talking about on this site, if we refer to a person by name or otherwise single people out as individuals, we need to apply the same level of respect as we show to other readers.  We can still make our points and we are still entitled and encouraged to share our opinions on this site as passionately and as actively as we always have — including our opinions about performance in the courtroom — but we can’t make allegations against individuals — like stating that a person is a hard-core criminal — for two reasons: (1) if we apply this to Mr. Taylor, he is on trial but still presumed innocent unless the judges find enough evidence to say otherwise; and (2) statements, even those made by others apart from Alpha and I on this site that are directed towards others and could defame specific individuals, could still get the site into legal hot water – and none of us want that.

That said, don’t let us slow down our conversation — we do not want to censor people’s opinions, nor do we want to restrict free speech. But we do need to balance it with respect for individuals’ reputations and not personally attack/defame other people in our discussions, including Mr. Taylor, Ms. Hollis and the judges.

Now let’s get back to the real discussions…..

28 Comments
  1. Hum!

    Please allow me say a few words.

    I have been waiting a LONG TIME for this…and it finally came. This trial has sparked a lot of emotionalism, hurt, and curiosity especially over the last 7 months but we need to calm down and dialogue with one another in a friendly and respectable manner, which I believe many of us have done. We also need to focus on substance and specifics of the testimonies.

    Thank you, Tracey and Alpha, thank you, and thank you.

  2. The “Open Society Justice Initiative” provided this project for people to exchange opinions and information about the trial proceedings and its background, and surely did not intend to build a platform for hate, frustration, or prejudiced statements to be made public.

    It is human, call it “normal”, to use all opportunities to get back, revenge, if you feel, think, or know that a person wronged you or your families. The same applies for defending and protecting someone you believe is worth it. Still, “Legal Eagle” is not the appropriate site for that. This site is concerning the TRIAL, the participants in their roles as defined by law, on their way to find justice.

    Justice, in my thinking, is like opinions. The philosophical aspects of truth, justice, guilt, and punishment are massive. Influenced by cultures, tradition, fashion, zeitgeist, religion – and on which side of the fence you stand…

    This site has been created to exchange views on such basis. Participants who do not quite understand these words are still in the same group as the rest of us. Just for respect to the ideals of this present world, the court, the former President, and the audience : keep it professional and straight. It’s for the judges to decide, and for us to accept such decision under the parameters of the society.

    Or: if you don’t accept, go and start a rebellion, revolution (but wait until X-Mas day).

    A little demagogic and polemic salt can be alright for the soup though, can’t it?

    • Dear Kai Kubel — we haven’t heard from you in a while now, but I am glad you have rejoined the conversation here. And I thank you for the support you have given to our policy. You are right – we do not intend to curtail free speech, but we do want to keep the conversation focused on the trial and the issues it raises, including the broad philosophical aspects, which, I think, gives us all loads of things to talk about here. While this trial provokes understandable emotional reactions, we simply ask that when people identify people personally, that their comment is respectful.

      Also, from our perspective, this site is one that is designed with respect for the rule of law at its basis — we, as its moderators, have to balance the competing forms of laws and rights as they relate to the trial and to this site, if we are to try to live up to the ideal of law as a force that can act to protect and help communities grow and flourish, whether national, international or virtual ones like this one on the internet.

      Thanks again for recognizing and accepting the basis for our policy.

      Best,
      Tracey

  3. Thanks Tracey, as always, for your great research which adds to our education. Thanks also to your main partner , our man Alpha. Especially you Tracey, and the judges are providing some redemption for the ugly behavior by some westerners to poor people around the world.

    It is people like you that continue to give some of us faith in westerners support of justice.

  4. This is too good, but too late. This is what we have been talking about, but nobody really listen. The damage is being done and now the police come and say stop it. I think we would have done better were we proactive. Thanks for the Legal Eagle Advice. We hope the anti Taylor will respect the rights of the accused.

    Regards

    Harris K Johnson

    • Harris,
      Some of these guys who are bitterly against Taylor had contact with some drug companies abroad and wanted to bring these into liberia under the baner of either rubber or gold mining companies. Taylor refuse to allow those kinds of businesses. Now a lot of them are roaming America and the western world don’t have a fitting job besides their old school obsolete educations, saying they got international contact.. Where were their contacts when others were being beheaded? So so FOUR ONE NINE… big lies, big mouth.. they spend all their what soever degree in the damn nursing home cleaning white man*****now they want people to know they got some so-call project with the intend to bring Taylor to justice after their first plight fails. Cause we see it fail and is failing everyday….Who cares who people knows//// Don’t care if you BILL CLINTON , CHARELES BRIGHT< JOHN T. AND SO WHATTTTT…..*********

      • Noko5,

        While being on my lunch break, I took the time to read the various posts. Boy!! you cracked me up laughing. I am still laughing while responding to you. Noko5, continue to expose these guys, but take it easy with them small “Pekin”. However, Noko5, you notice something? They have stopped calling us uneducated, rebels, and etc, temporarily. They also stopped calling us those other despicable names temporarily. But don’t be surprise when they go back to their roots of calling us names again, especially with the massive blunder of Ms. Hollis lastnight (Japan time)in pointing to pages that have no numbers and looking at different page from what she told the judges to look at and the continual rejection of the judges to allow paragraphs, lines, sentences, pages, fake documents, and etc that will go towards impeachment and guilt. Ms. Hollis reasons for asking the judges to allow her fake documents failed the ‘two prone test.”

  5. Thanks so much to you for making those that post on this site realise that we’re living in a civilized world and as such, insults and careless statements are not acceptable on such forum. Too long have I read such comments about Taylor and the prosecution, even some times about the judges as well. I am grateful to all those that keep this site going. Thanks so much for your words of caution. I hope that we all will govern ourselves accordingly.

  6. It my first time commenting here but I just couldn’t help it…
    what’s all this sensitivity from taylor’s supporters and the administrators of this forum around a contributor stating an opinion that does not in any way prejudice the case since the opinions expressed here have no bearing on any legal decisions involving this ongoing trial…
    i have hardly been a regular follower of the trial but i can imagine that there are those who come away from witnessing the proceedings that believe that Taylor is innocent and the trial is a complete farce and an attempt by a phantom “white racist imperialistic government” that is trying to convict an African leader, not unlike Patrice Lumumba, who stood up to their imperialistic controls… But for some like me, to say Taylor’s name in the same breathe as a true freedom fighter like Lumumba is an anathema to the African freedom struggle, but i haven’t seen “legal eagle” sanctioning those comments even though, some readers who believe that Taylor is guilty as charged and an African despot, more like Idi Amin, have found it to be “obscene and objectionable.” It almost seems like to be convicted of Taylor’s guilt as charged, is by default “degrading and objectionable” since belief in Taylor’s guilt is an inference that he is a “hardcore criminal.”
    Not to be long-winded, my point is that people in this forum believe that Taylor is guilty and innocent at the same time and they express their beliefs accordingly. The fact that legal status quo classifies an accused as innocent until proven guilty doesn’t mean that every observer should or will share the same legal standard. OJ Simpson was found innocent of killing his wife in a US court of law, but many in white America still haven’t changed their perception of OJ’s guilt.
    In conclusion, in my opinion, as long as contributors stray from using vulgarity and profanity, determining what is “obscene and objectionable” such as the belief that Taylor is a hardcore criminal, will be a slippery slope that i don’t think even the administrators are qualified and/or can “appropriately” determine, unless, they are prepared to base their determination on “protestations” from sensitive Taylor supporters in this forum…

  7. Tracey,
    I have a lot of respect for the work that you and Alpha have done thus far on this website.. You know I have been advocating respect for other bloggers for a long time. Earlier I spoke about how people wouldn’t come to this site because of the way many Taylor supporters attacked them. There are many times that you had to not post comments because they were personal attacks, and I have admired how adamant you all have been about posters respecting each other.
    I think that this whole “respect” Taylor and not call him a murderer is absurd; I’ve been laying low for a while and just checking out the site every now and then; reading this latest post I’ve decided that I cannot express myself here freely and so I will be leaving the site. I respect the OSJI and the decisions you’ve made and I know that I cannot and will not adhere to them so I think it’s more respectful to leave then to stay and ‘break the rules’.

    In regards to the policy of respecting other posters and not attacking them personally, this is absolutely necessary for such a blog to continue peacefully, and for legitimate discussions to happen. We are all total strangers more or less, regardless of our personal opinions of Taylor it is our duty i believe to show respect for other posters. We are all strangers, expressing our personal opinions and It is just absurd for bloggers or posters to attack other posters because they ‘disagree’ with their sentiments or their opinions. So i believe that this rule is absolutely necessary.
    But when you tell people to show the same ‘respect’ they show bloggers to Taylor, that’s when I can gracefully bow out of this website. First thing, when you mention Taylor to Liberians Sierra Leoneans and even other nationality, right away you will get a range, of different emotions, opinions, and sentiments about Taylor. This is because of people’s relationship to Taylor. Some people view Taylor as a hero, others regard him as a revolutionary, others a phenomenal President, others a murderer, a criminal, etc…depending on who you talk you; you will hear different things about Taylor; So these opinions can be expected in such a blog. In relating to the Sierra Leonean trail, many people draw on their personal, or not so personal relationship with Taylor & Liberia, in interpreting evidence, and arrive at an opinion.
    I do agree with you when you say that the trail should run it’s course and decide whether or not Taylor is guilty in Sierra Leone. When I call Taylor a murderer or whatever name; this is in relationship to what I know from Liberia, it’s sort of a ‘if this, than maybe that’ statement, ‘if he did it in Liberia then Sierra Leone’ is a possibility. In focusing on the issues, even the prosecution are drawing on issues in Liberia to try to convince the judge that Taylor is capable of committing the atrocities he is accused of committing in Sierra Leone. So If I do the same and say Taylor is a ‘X’ because of this, this and this…..this is only me speaking about my personal experience and relating that experience to the current trail to form an opinion of what I think transpired in S.L; it’s not saying certainly he’s X, it’s saying he was X in Liberia so maybe he is X in S.L. If I am not allow to openly express what I think and how I feel about Taylor than clearly this is not the place to be for ME. Surely some of what is said about Taylor may be offensive to Taylor himself, it may be hurtful, some incorrect, etc… but this is expected, with Taylor role in the LIberian civil war and now the crimes he’s accused of in Sierra Leone. Other readers may be offended because they do not share the same sentiments about Taylor as I may do, but I am simply expressing my opinions. It’s one thing to ask readers to respect each other and not throw around personal attacks. But to require the same for Taylor, a person who many Liberians already have a set and strong opinion about, I think is rediculously absurd. So with that said. I bow out of this blog. When OJ was on trail many people had personal opinions about what they thought about the trail some favorable to OJ others not; i do not think this should have resulted in personal attacks on those expressing opinions; but if people were limiting from expressing their personal opinions about who they think OJ is that would have been rediculous, of course in this loose analysis, no one really had a personal relationship to OJ other than his family, friends colleagues co-workers etc….I feel this is more censorship than it is respect. OSJI is telling me you CANNOT express your personal opinions about Taylor. Even though people can come and say Taylor is one of the best Liberian president, he was the savior of Liberia etc.., but when a person makes a counter-claim that becomes a matter of respect and not an opinion.
    Thanks for your hard work, I still think that OSJI is amazing for having this website but as i said. I cannot and will not respect this ‘rule’ , and I do not want to be disrespectful and purposely ignore it because i will leave you all with a bunch of comments that cannot be posted…so Peace It’s been great posting!

    • Dear Ms. Teage — I do want to encourage you to rethink your position. I encourage you to post your opinions — you can express any opinion you want about Mr. Taylor on this site as long as it fits within the rules, and the rules give posters a large latitude and leeway to express themselves. I honestly think that people see this policy ars being far more far-reaching than it actually is. If you think Mr. Taylor is guilty — that is your opinion and you are entitled to it. If you want to express your opinion in other ways about Mr. Taylor, you are entiteld to do that here. I can guarantee you, Ms. Teage, it will have to reach a high bar for me not to post to justify any incursion into freedom of speech.

      Ms. Teage – apart from that, you add enormously to the conversation here. I think your departure would be a huge loss for the discussion, so I would ask you to bear with us.
      Best,
      Tracey

    • Well said Ms. Teage!
      Too bad that you’ve decided to leave. This is only my second post on this forum and having an articulate and clear thinking person like you is definitely crucial to the debate/discussions that transpires here. The fact that you’re leaving will probably also influence my future participation in this forum…
      That said, I admire you for calling out the administrators of this website for being unwitting influenced to cloak the suppression of free speak in the disguise of what I think is a stretch of the legal consideration of what is “defamatory.” You made a keen observation, which I quote here: “Even though people can come and say Taylor is one of the best Liberian president, he was the savior of Liberia etc.., but when a person makes a counter-claim that becomes a matter of respect and not an opinion.” And I believe Tracey’s answer to your summation was that she will allow this space to be opened to both pro and con statement in reference to Taylor.
      Nonetheless, I am still alarmed that we even came this far that referring to Taylor as a “hardcore criminal” solicited up a warning. And why I find that alarming is that I believe a cross section of Taylor loyalists on this forum have been committed contributors, unlike someone like me, and have hijacked the discussions in this forum to the point that they’ve been able to unduly influence the forum’s administrators to sanction people for daring to call Taylor a “hardcore criminal.”
      What we need to be reminded is that we are discussing a trial involving “crimes against humanity” where thousand of lives were lost and the most atrocious crimes were committed against people in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. And at least as far as Liberia, Charles Taylor’s NPFL was an organization that committed “hardcore” crimes (and that’s an understatement), making him, de jure, a “hardcore criminal.” Let’s get real here, this is not a case of calling the Pope a hardcore criminal. This man was associated with groups and people who committed heinous crimes and there are those who believe he’s complicit and there are those who don’t.
      So it would only be right to continue to allow a vibrant space for free expression from both viewpoints, without vulgarity and profanity, and I believe Tracey has said that much in her reply. So seconding Tracey, I ask you Ms. Teage, to please continue your valuable contribution here. And I’ll try to do the same from time to time to steer the discussion on a more balanced keel.

      • Shakazulu — thanks so much for your post, and I do hope both you and Ms. Teage stay. I want to assure you that I am listening to you and other readers. I am always going to upset some people with my decisions on moderation, and please others. That is a fact of life with this site. However, I can make sure that I make those judgment calls in the most transparent way possible — I fear that this latest legal advice I have communicated may have muddied the waters somewhat.

        What I am proposing is this: I will go and read up all the legal issues. I will then be able to provide very clear guidance, which I will share with you on what our legal counsel can and can’t live with on this site. I am open to finding that the way we have articulated the needs of this site are too broad and people feel overly constrained in what they can say. I am also open to finding that this might be the appropriate balance. My hope, amid all this, is that we not let this issue distract us from the very real and vibrant conversation we are having on this site. Your comments are insightful, and your contributions are important. Let’s please not lose sight of this larger discussion we are having, and let’s also please remember I will be as open as I am humanly able to be in allowing comments on this site. I want to help facilitate people in their ability to share their opinions to the greatest extent possible.

        My question is this Shakazulu, Ms Teage, and others who are concerned about this policy: can you bear with me while I do my research? Then, please, I ask you to be free to make your own decisions about whether you stay here with our online community and discussions, or whether you leave and go elsewhere. Is that a fair approach from your perspective?

        Best, in hope for your continued patience,
        Tracey

        • Tracey,
          I aapreciate you considering my concerns I promise I’m not trying to be difficult and give you grief or more work to do…but I was simply expressing how I felt about the this rule. I thought long and hard before I responded to it…
          I was wondering..and I can ask now.
          Since the comments publised on this cite are all ‘third’ party comments and not OJSI personal views, is it possible to have a DISCLAIMER stating something like ‘ the views,opinions, and sentiments expressed on this website are that of different individuals, the OJSI is an independent justice Initiative . The opinions shared on this site does not reflect our personal views of this trail or the defendant’. I hear what you said, but I just feel like I am being told that I need to censor my opinion, when they do not reflect that of the OJSI or have any WHATSOEVER bearing on the SCSL judges decision. It is not my intention or hopefully the intentions of any person on this blog to spew lies, make up stories to defame Charles Taylor’s name ( he needs no help). Whatever I say about Taylor is from my experiences…hence my opinion. I wanted to responde to the child soldier post or the NPFL post but I can’t because some of what I was going to say would be consider defimation of Taylors character.. and not my view or my perspective ( in relation to the trail). Maybe my reaction to this is more of a personal issue than it is about the trail at that rate I apologize for being difficult. But I still feel as if this rule hinders tremendously, individuals from freely expressing their opinions about the trail N the defendant on trail. The suggestion that our opinions of Taylor could be considered defimiation of his character is poposterous to me.
          I will definitely stick around and see how your research goes and then make my decision. II hope you understand that I’m not tryin 2 get u to ‘rule’ in my favor Im simply expressing myslf.

          • Ms Teage — I’m so glad to hear from you. I was worried you were gone for good. Please know, Ms. Teage, you are not at all being difficult — please don’t ever worry about that. It is my job here to try to sort these issues out and you raised a critically important one. This issue needs greater clarity and believe me, the last thing I want to do is censor anyone’s opinion or make them feel like they are constrained in this forum to the point where they feel compelled to leave. I promise to get back to you as soon as Ihave read everything I have to. I’m glad you will stay with us at least until then. That is good news and I appreciate your willingness to hear us out on this one.
            Best, as always,
            Tracey

          • Tracey,

            If you may, please make it possible that Teage and others who want to say anything defamatory/derrogatory about Mr. Taylor to have their will be done. We have heard all bad things about this man and nothing new they will say that we have not heard before. In fact, the main reason why we jumped on the streets of Liberia especially Monrovia, singing and chanting “you kill my ma, you kill my pap, I will vote for you “, is because of the same old name calling. I can understand the issue of legal liability onyour part. But, if there is any way you can help, please do so. We don’t want any excuses.

          • Hi Jose — I am looking into the law right now and hopefully will be able to come back with a very specific explanation very soon.
            Best,
            Tracey

    • Folks, well, by their fruits, we shall know them. They can not abide by the rules. UNBELIEVABLE.

  8. RE: Legal Eagle Advice on Our Comments: Let’s Show Respect To Everybody

    Tracey Gurd I am very very upset with you for crediting me with that unpleasant statement to President Charles G. Taylor on the site please go back and check.

    I rather protested to you for allowing that on the site, please go and do you checks and do the right thing

    You must Apologize to me NOW!

    Nii Darku, Accra Ghana
    niidarku@gmail.com

    NB I have tried to review where and who said it but give me some time i will point that to you.

    • Hi Nii Darku,

      I am sorry for any confusion caused. I was trying to indicate in the article that I wrote that you had objected to another reader calling Mr. Taylor a “hardcore criminal” on the site, and I was quoting directly from a comment you submitted on January 21 at 10:02pm. Here is what you submitted:

      Submitted on 2010/01/21 at 10:02pm
      “Charles G. Taylor is a hard core criminal” this is not acceptable. i do not this you will allow it used on any one on this forum. Tracey Gurd take note

      Here is what I wrote in my posting: “Nii Darku, for example, said this: “Charles G. Taylor is a hard core criminal” this is not acceptable. I do not this you will allow it used on any one on this forum.”

      Nii — I quoted your comment directly and I hope it was clear to all readers that you were not calling Mr. Taylor any names yourself, but were objecting to other people doing so.

      Does that clear things up? I hope so.

      Best,
      Tracey

  9. Thanks am very ok now,

    I placed a call to your office and i left a message in you inbox

    Take care and God Bless

    • Hi Nii Darku — I’m very glad we have sorted it out. I did not mean to create confusion or to misrepresent your words. I am glad all is okay and that you made such an effort to let me know.
      Best,
      Tracey

  10. Liberians deserve Charles Taylor. They seem to like the devil and want him to go back? Let him go. Let them suffer.

    • S. watkins,
      I think you need to go and do a better job on who the devil is in Liberia, Because the devil will be running for re-elections. Just so you know.. WHERE IS THE MANDATE OF HER TRC.. hahaha

  11. WE are all part of this discussion, WE all have our individual opinions, and expriences; and if WE have an objection or a problem, to a specific action taken my the moderators of this website; WE have every the right to make that known. This is what free speech is about. No one person on this site shares the same opinion, and that is 100% ok.

    • You are absolutley correct Ms. Teage. And I am now one step closer to getting back to you with a more specific policy. Hopefully soon.
      Best,
      Tracey