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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs