World News / Africa

    Liberian Publisher Jailed for Libel

    Justice of the Supreme Court of LiberiaJustice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
    x
    Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
    Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
    James Butty
    A Liberian rights group has given the government a Friday ultimatum to free the jailed publisher and managing editor of FrontPage Africa print and online editions or the group will mobilize Liberians to demand the arrest of government officials accused of corruption, but who have not been prosecuted.

    Publisher Rodney Sieh was taken into custody late Wednesday following a Supreme Court ruling that the paper should pay more than $1.5 million dollars for libeling then Agriculture Minister J. Chris Toe.

    Hundreds of Liberians, including journalists gathered Wednesday evening in the capital, Monrovia demanding to be taken to jail with publisher Sieh.

    Vandalark Patricks, national director of the Liberia Campaigner for Change, said the group sees the arrest of Sieh as a "calculated attempt" by the government to silence the media and critical voices in Liberia.

    “Four o’clock today (Wednesday), over 500 persons assembled. We were asking the court to allow us to go to jail with Rodney Sieh because we believe he’s innocent. To incarcerate a media practitioner and charge them with $1.5 million for libel, even if you combine all the newspapers in this country, they will not be able to raise that amount. This is a calculated attempt to silence the media in this country,” he said.

    Patricks describes the arrest and incarceration of publisher Sieh as unconstitutional.

    “Under our constitution, after six o’clock (in the evening), nobody is supposed to be arrested or even to be incarcerated. Rodney Sieh was picked up from the Supreme Court of Liberia today by 6:30 pm. We think that this is a calculated attempt by the government to silence media institutions and critical voices in the country,” Patricks said.

    He criticized the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for its failure to prosecute government officials accused of corruption.

    “Why would the justice system not go after those that have been indicted for corruption, and are yet to be prosecuted?” he said.

    Patricks said his organization has mobilized Liberians in all political subdivisions of the country and abroad to mobilize on Friday and demand the release of publisher Sieh.

    “We have given the government an ultimatum on our before Friday if Rodney Sieh is not free, we’re going to mobilize the young people; we going to mobilize every Liberian in this country. We have already gotten the names of every officials of government, both former and current. We will issue citizen arrest on them. We will be prevailing on the government of Liberia to have them indicted or to have them prosecuted,” Patricks said.
    Butty interview with Patricks
    Butty interview with Patricksi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    August 24 being Liberia’s Flag Day, Patricks said his group has called on Liberians to gather on Friday, dressed in the colors of their national flag.

    “I can tell you August 24 is a big day in the history of this country, and we have instructed our people to buy their flag, to buy everything that has to do with red, white and blue to assemble in their numbers at the Centennial Pavilion where the August 24 program will be held. That would be the beginning of Rosa Parks of this country,” Patricks said.

    Attempts to reach Justice Minister Christiana Tah and police commissioner Chris Massaquoi were not successful, but police sources said the police view the case as purely a legal matter.

    Former Agriculture Minister J. Chris Toe told VOA the verdict sends a message that no newspaper or publication can tarnish a person’s reputation without sufficient evidence.

    Toe said the $1.5 million judgment against FrontPage Africa cannot be compared to the damage the article has done to his reputation.

    “That $1.5 million, if it is ever collected, is not going to repair the damage that they have done to me as a professional individual. So, frankly, in terms of the damage that has been done to me, I still feel it (the find) should have been more,” Toe said.

    Asked whether he has authorized his lawyers to collect the $1.5 million judgment, Toe said the case is now a judicial matter and no longer in his hands.

    “It is the mandate of the Supreme Court.  So, it is way beyond me.  Any attempt by me would be to subvert or to put a barrier in front of the Supreme Court that their ruling be enforced,” he said.

    As things stand, it appears publisher Sieh will remain incarcerated until he pays the $1.5 million libel fine or unless President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf intervenes, as she has done in another court case involving publisher Sieh.

    Sieh told VOA that he and his lawyers were in the process of  taking their case to the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria.

    “We are in the process of bracing ourselves for the worst. In the meantime, our lawyers are in the process of preparing a case to go to the ECOWAS human rights court for an appeal.  With the help of the London-based Media Defense Fund, we are taking this matter to the ECOWAS Court,” he said.

    Sieh said he has also sent letters to a number of international organizations and leaders, including US President Barack Obama.
    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ike D. Coleman from: Columbus, Ohio
    August 23, 2013 9:14 AM
    To begin with, the Liberian Supreme Court is a joke. Sometimes I wonder if its members are not as incompetent and screwed by the Executives as judges they accuse of being unqualified. If you want to truly begin tracing three of the many banks in the US where stolen money get deposited. Check this out: Our 4-year investigation uncover Wachovia (Bank of America)--North Carolina, PNC--Pennsylvania and Chase--New York. There may be other regional US banks, depending on where public officials families resides; but our best finds were those listed. Through unnamed inside sources we even determined how international wire transfer information is redacted from home base, if deposits are not made with "hard" checks. I intend to publish that information as a bigger part of a special report on how: Corruption, Laziness & Bad Governance has rendered Liberia poverty-stricken and underdeveloped.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora