Concerning detention of Liberian publisher Rodney Sieh of FrontPageAfrica

PHOTO: Ken Harper/SI Newhouse School of Public Communications
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Hon. William G. Greaves, Jr., Consul General of the Republic of Liberia
The Consulate General of the Republic of Liberia in New York
866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 249
New York, New York,

Dear Mr. Greaves,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is deeply concerned by the recent imprisonment of FrontPageAfrica’s publisher, Rodney Sieh, at the Monrovia Central Prison and subsequent shutdown of FrontPageAfrica. In 2010, Sieh was found guilty of libelling the former Minister of Agriculture Chris Toe in a series of articles which alleged that Toe had embezzled funds intended for disease relief. Toe was later asked to resign. Sieh was fined the enormous sum of 1.6 million dollars, and on August 20, 2013, Sieh was ordered detained pending full payment of these damages.

FrontPageAfrica is a vital source of critical news in Liberia, reporting on such topics as human rights violations and government corruption. The newspaper is also the employer of 2012 CJFE International Press Freedom Award winner Mae Azango, who has reported on such important issues as female genital mutilation.

The exorbitant damages in this case appear designed to silence one of the most important newspapers in the country. The use of imprisonment is also in contravention of the 2007 Declaration of Table Mountain, to which Liberia is a signatory, calling for the decriminalization of media offences. CJFE believes that Rodney Sieh’s imprisonment will cast a chill on Liberian journalists who investigate government corruption.

Rodney Sieh’s hospitalization in the course of a hunger strike has made his case all the more pressing and CJFE urges the Republic of Liberia to immediately release Sieh and complete reforms that protect and promote freedom of expression for all Liberians.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: Ms. Chantal de Varennes, Canadian Ambassador to the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Liberia
The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs