News / Africa

Liberian Newspaper Slapped with $1.5m Libel Ruling

Justice of the Supreme Court of LiberiaJustice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia
James Butty
Liberia’s Supreme Court has ruled that a $1.5 million verdict against the FrontPage Africa newspaper should be enforced.  

A lower court ruling in 2010 found the paper guilty of libelling former Agriculture Minister J. Christopher Toe.

It said then that FrontPage Africa did not provide evidence to support its claims that Toe diverted millions of dollars intended to fight an army worm infestation in Bong and Lofa Counties. Toe later resigned without stating why.  

Rodney Sieh, publisher of FrontPage Africa said he stands by his story and that the Supreme Court ruling is intended to shut down his newspaper. 

“I was kind of not surprised because we’ve been hearing that they were going to do this and so we were kind of anticipating it to come out.  Asking us to pay $1.5 million is like telling us to shut our paper down.  They will have to close down because we cannot afford to pay that money, and we insist that our story was factual,” Sieh said.

According to some legal analysts, FrontPage Africa can petition the Supreme Court for a re-argument of the case, but that would require the approval of one of the court’s justices.

Sieh said he did not appeal the lower court ruling because he believed he could get a fair hearing before the Supreme Court.
Butty interview with Sieh
Butty interview with Siehi
|| 0:00:00

“The problem is our court reporter informed us that some of the lawyers had problems because, in our Supreme Court fight, we said that we could not find a lawyer that would understand the media landscape.  Mind you, no newspaper has won a case in Liberia against any government official,” he said.

He said he has notified the Press Union of Liberia and was in the process of notifying the Committee to Protect Journalists about the court decision.

Sieh said it appears President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government has been encouraging its officials to sue newspapers.

“In the last three, four months alone, several government officials have been suing newspapers at random, and it is becoming glaring that the administration is encouraging government officials to sue newspapers. Even if a newspaper has supporting documents and evidence to support their story, they are being sued.  So, we have no other option but to keep fighting,” Sieh said.

Sieh said he does not have faith in the Liberian justice system.

“As it stands now, we don’t have confidence in the judicial system in this country because the ruling in this case was based on our experience with the Supreme Court justices last year in the Angel Tokpah case,” Sieh said.

The court ordered Sieh jailed for 30 days and fined for contempt in January, 2011 after an editorial he wrote criticizing the court for being biased.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs