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Liberia: Freedom House Condemns Arrest and Prolonged Detention of Editor Rodney Sieh, Calls for ECOWAS Intervention

FREEDOM HOUSE CONDEMNS PROLONGED DETENTION OF LIBERIAN NEWSPAPER EDITOR RODNEY SIEH

By

FREEDOM HOUSE

rodney08aFreedom House joins the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and key Liberian human rights organizations in condemning the arrest and prolonged detention of Rodney Sieh, the managing editor and publisher of newspaper FrontPage Africa. Mr. Sieh remains hospitalized after he began a hunger strike protesting his imprisonment.

Sieh was arrested by government authorities on August 21 following a Supreme Court ruling which ordered his paper to pay more than $1.5 million for defaming former Agriculture Minister, Christopher Toe. Since Sieh was unable to pay the excessive damages, the Civil Law Court in Monrovia ordered that FrontPage Africa close its offices on August 23. In 2010, Mr. Toe sued FrontPage Africa after they reported that investigations ordered by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf found about $6 million in unaccounted funds within the government. As a result of these investigations, Toe was accused of corruption and quietly resigned, but never faced charges.

A statement by Liberia’s information ministry on Tuesday said the verdict should stand.

Freedom House urges the Liberian judiciary and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to review the case and uphold the country’s constitution, which provides for freedom of speech and the press, and to investigate the claims of corruption transparently and openly. The forced closure of FrontPage Africa and Sieh’s arrest are a direct threat to freedom of press and expression in a country that had recently made strides towards greater freedoms of expression with the repeal of criminal defamation laws.

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