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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs