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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs