One of the four sons of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Mr. Robert A. Sirleaf, has filed a US $11 million Libel Suit against the Independent Newspaper, Analyst Newspaper and Mr. Jefferson Koijee, Head of Auxiliaries, Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) of the City of Monrovia, Liberia.
Mr. Sirleaf, who is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia(NOCAL) and also Senior Advisor to President Johnson-Sirleaf, filed the US $11 million Libel Suit at the Civil Law Court Six Judicial Circuit for Montserrado County Republic of Liberia Sitting in its March Term A.D. 2012.
According to court document in possession of this paper, Mr. Sirleaf (Plaintiff) among other things complains that the 1st defendant (Independent Newspaper) reported in its widely read Newspaper vol.8#209 of their Monday, March 5th, A.D. 2012 Edition and carried in a bold Banner Headlines: “Sirleaf’s Oil or Liberians’ Oil? As Robert Sirleaf Hijacks Five Oil Blocks.”
Mr. Sirleaf, the document divulged, is demanding proof from the Independent Newspaper regarding its report that he (Sirleaf) hijacks five oil blocks.
Following the publication by the Independent Newspaper, the document further divulged that on the 19th day of March A.D. 2012, the 2nd Defendant, the Analyst Newspaper, also carried a story that began with a rhetorical question: “Where are the Progressives? Wonders CDC Auxiliaries Chief In Light of Robert Sirleaf’s Influence, Wealth.”
The document asserted that the plaintiff says the article as carried in Analyst Newspaper, 2nd defendant, was a product of Mr. Koijee.
The plaintiff says that although the story is said to be written by Mr. Koijee, 3rd defendant but at the same time 2nd defendant, the Analyst Newspaper did not cross check the ‘facts’ as a professional media organization before publication.
Against this backdrop, Mr. Sirleaf , according to the document, prays the court to adjudge Damages for libel per se against the Defendants of an amount not less than United States Dollars Ten Million(US$10,000,000.00).
He is demanding US$8M from the Independent Newspaper, US$2M from the Analyst Newspaper and US$1M from Mr. Koijee as ‘Damages for libel per se’ against the defendants.
But the management of the Independent Newspaper via its lawyer, Cllr. Sayma S. Cephus, says the paper has done absolutely nothing .
In a communication dated March 26, 2012 and addressed to Cllr. Milton D. Taylor, Law Offices of Taylor & Associates, Front Street, Monrovia, Liberia, a copy of which is in possession of this paper, Cllr. Cephus urged Mr. Sirleaf to refrain from using lawsuits to ‘unduly harass media’ houses for simply reporting his activities as a public official at NOCAL.
Said Cllr. Cephus: ” The use of lawsuits to muzzle the free press into submission may be a show of power because of privilege, but it inarguably threatens our new democracy and undermines the dynamic leadership credentials of his mother.” According to him, in all libel actions, for a publication to be considered as outrageous and actionable, it must go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as utterly intolerable by every reasonable standard.
He among other things added: “I fail to see how a publication with a banner headline ending in a question mark would be construed as despicable and outrageous. The Independent publication contains no offensive or contemptible comment, and therefore, the paper will not issue any public retraction or apology; instead, it is your client who must apologize for embarrassing and harassing my client.”
Meanwhile, the management of the Analyst Newspaper and Mr. Koijee are yet to respond to Mr. Sirleaf’s libel suit.