Thanks for your patience as we worked to clarify our policy on posting readers’ comments.
Our goal in inviting readers to comment here is to provide a forum for discussion about the rule of law with this trial being a catalyst. We want to make the operations of the trial less opaque and more accessible as an issue that people can engage with and discuss in a forum that tries to provide regular and balanced information about the trial.
We try to focus the discussion on issues arising out of the trial, and inevitably that involves people discussing their thoughts on the evidence and arguments that are presented and how they relate to the question of Mr. Taylor’s innocence or guilt. However, while Mr. Taylor is on trial for his alleged responsibility for crimes, we recognize that he has the right to be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise, and that the decision on Mr. Taylor’s innocence or guilt will in fact be decided by the judges.
With these goals in mind, below is the policy for readers’ comments that we will be applying:
What is not allowed: comments which accuse specific individuals — including Mr. Taylor — of committing, or being responsible for, specific crimes made as a statement of fact if that individual has not been convicted of the crime by a court of law. An example: “Mr. X is a murderer.” This should not prevent objective discussion of available evidence about criminal responsibility, just broad unsubstantiated statements. Also not allowed are defamatory comments about an identifiable individual or group.
What is allowed: comments which are clearly the genuine opinions of the readers expressing them, and which can add materially to the discussion of the trial and the issues it raises. As examples: “After looking at all the evidence presented so far by the prosecution, I think Mr. Taylor is not guilty/guilty of the crime of x because of y and z reason.” Or “Today’s evidence convinced me that Mr. Taylor must have been/was not involved in recruiting and using child soldiers in Sierra Leone because of…….”
We reserve the right to determine in our discretion whether to post comments which are opinions of readers about specific individuals that do not add substantively to the discussion.
This seems like a fine distinction to draw, but for the purposes of this site, the distinction is important. It recognizes that a person will not on this website be labeled as responsible for specific crimes, as a statement of fact, if he or she has not been proven guilty. At the same time, it allows people to express their own personal opinion on a matter of public interest.
Finally, our previous guidelines about not posting comments that contain personal attacks, threats, offensive or racist statements and other unacceptable content will remain.
With thanks, as always, for your patience as we sorted this out.
(Also, please note: I will be away next week, and my colleagues, Alpha and Taegin, will take over the moderation).