The fate of the Editor of Liberia’s biggest newspaper (FrontpageAfrica), Rodney Sieh hangs in the balance as he spends yet another day in prison after he was imprisoned last week. The editor predicament cannot be more complicated when his lead counsel, Attorney Samuel Koffi Woods confirmed queries from callers last night on a talk show on Destiny radio that he is not counselor- at -law to appear before the Supreme Court where Mr. Sieh will have to re-file his appeal.
When further asked about why did he get involve with Editor Sieh’s case when the jurisdiction of the case was the Supreme Court knowing that he is not accredited to appear before the bench, Attorney Samuel Koffi Woods said he was serving as a spokesman for Sieh’s legal team that comprise of lawyers who were accredited Counselors at Law who will file the case to the Supreme Court.
The new roadblock in the path of FrontpageAfrica Editor’s legal team to free their client from prison adds more hours and perhaps days of delay to getting him out and seeking justice for the case, which the newspaper believes was a miscarriage of justice and an anecdote to suppressing the press in Liberia.
Editor Sieh was remanded in prison last week after he failed to pay US$1.5 million on a libel judgment brought on the FrontpageAfrica newspaper for reporting on appellant Chris Toe, former Minister of Agriculture for miapproriating over US $104 million. Minister Toe sued the newspaper and prayed for a US$1.5 million in damages for what he believes the paper and its Managing Editor impugned his character when the paper published an article in which it reported the Minister was involve in corruption by misappropriating US$100 million meant for fighting insert outbreak and also ordered for the restitution of US$4 million embezzled by the Minister and the temporary management of Guthrie Rubber Plantation.
The imprisonment of the country’s biggest newspaper Editor is a troubling sign for the bill of health of the Liberian media and press freedom. It begs the logic about Liberia’s judicial system that a newspaper will publish an audit report conducted by the Liberian government (through General Audit Commission) after a Deputy Minister at the Agriculture Ministry filed a complaint against Minister Toe on how he was single handedly ran the ministry and misappropriating resources. President Sirleaf mandated the audit of Minister Toe. The minister was indicted for misappropriating US$100 million for funds that was provided for fighting inserts infestation in the central and northern part of the country. The audit report also found Mr. Chris Toe of absconding over US$4 million from the Guthrie Rubber Plantation for which the report was calling him to restitution of the money.
Editor Sieh imprisonment has garnered tremendous pressure from all spheres of the country and Liberian Diaspora communities, but in the advent of advocating for the release of the FrontpageAfrica Editor and freedom of the press, Liberians will need to walk a delicate balance between his release and press freedom by ensuring that Mr. Rodney is released through the conduit of respecting the justice system no matter how flaw it seem and ensuring that the rule of law is upheld. Liberians must ensure that Mr. Rodney’s release be a victory for the press, meaning the press should come out strong in this debacle to neutralize the veil of oppression that hangs over the Liberian media. Mr. Rodney’s release must be done through the legal process and option available to him and not the usual Liberian superior presidency patronage where the President is begged to intervene after negotiation even if her intervention comprises the rule of law.
The Editor’s case is a case between a Liberian institution and a private Liberian citizen and the court has given its ruling. Liberians and editor Sieh must respect the decisions of the court whether the court was in err but must follow the legal process and re-file his case to the Supreme Court in parallel to the court’s specifications, a basis upon which his initial appeal was thrown out.
Politicians should not exploit the Editor’s plight for gamesmanship as all sorts of strange bird fellows flouting around the case and tap dancing – Mr.Sieh and FrontpapgeAfrica should not be used as a political piñata who every political opportunist and institution can cash on for their own selfish political gain at the expense of their plight.
Click link for Supreme Court ruling on FrontpageAfrca