Drama Over Rodney siehs Imprisonment…Liberty Party Concerned About Situation

All efforts by some concerned protesters to prevent FrontPage Africa Publisher and Managing Editor, Rodney Sieh from going to prison yesterday turned into a drama after officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP) forcibly whisked him off into their pick-up at about 6:02 p.m., from the Civil Law Court to the Monrovia Central Prison.

The scene turned dramatic when the angry protesters rode on their motorbikes and chased the police vehicle in which Editor Sieh was riding, and escorted by officers who were heavily armed with their batons. The protesters arrived at the Central Prison and began throwing stones on the gates of the prison compound and at the same time throwing stones over the fence to vent their angers.

According to them, it was in total violation of the law that journalist Sieh was taken to prison after 6:p.m. and that he should be released immediately since he didn’t commit any crime. They insisted that journalist Sieh should have been commended for reporting on corruption instead of being taken to jail because he spoke the truth.

Earlier the Civil Law Court gave journalist Sieh an ultimatum of 24 hours to produce US$1.6 million to former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe on Tuesday for defamation of character, in a case involving him and former Agriculture Minister Christopher Toe in a libel case dating back to 2010.

Journalist Sieh who insisted that he could not make the money available went prepared to go to jail in that he arrived at the Court with his blanket, toothpaste and toothbrush. His preparedness reminded observers of the late activist Albert Porte who was famous for always taking along with him a mat and other items for his comfort, just in case he was arrested by the police for any misconduct.

At the same time, the court room was jammed packed with journalists, sympathizers and political parties, as well as civil right activists who were also eager to see the outcome of the case. After a decision was reached by the judges to take journalist Sieh to prison, the protesters blocked every entrance of the Civil Law Court and other gates at the Temple of Justice to ensure that they prevented journalist Sieh from going to prison.

The protesters were seen with placards that carried different inscriptions and chanting that the government must respect the rule of law. Some of the signs indicated that corrupt people always go free, while people who speak on corruption face the wrath of the government.

Journalist Sieh should have been taken to prison at about 5:00 p.m., but the protesters blocked the way, despite Journalist Sieh’s plea to allow justice take its course and allow police to take him to the prison. The demonstrators though were not moved by Mr. Sieh’s plea and continued their sit-in action.

Two hours later, the Police in a peaceful mood sent for reinforcement and used their tactics in carrying out the Court’s order forcefully. The Police, firstly deceived the protesters and rushed to the Central Prison, but diverted to an unknown destination.

Some of the protesters who had earlier gone ahead to the Central Prison also followed the police vehicle, but got lost along the way since they didn’t know the exact direction the Police vehicle went.  At about 6:23 p.m., the police vehicle carrying Mr. Sieh returned to the Central Prison and rushed into the fence but before the protesters could get closer, Journalist Sieh had already been confined in Prison.

Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee of the Liberty Party says, its attention has been drawn to the legal battle between the Management of the Frontpage Africa Newspaper and former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Chris Toe bordering on “defamation of character”.

A statement issued by the Party yesterday said its focus is drawn to the trend the case is taking and the potential danger it poses to the country’s collective quest for the building of a vibrant press that responds to the grave challenges of their time, especially, the persistent calls by the national leadership for a robust fight against the national scourge called “Corruption” and other vices.

Liberty Party indicated that as an institution that subscribes to the rule of law, it will do nothing to undermine the interpretation of the law by the High Court as is with the case in point. The Party’s executive committee said while they hold it true that the case is one that does not involve the government as a defendant or a plaintiff, as is being argued by some government functionaries, it reveals, for all practical purposes and intents, a serious reversal of the gains that have been made to lift press freedom to a higher ground, even with government’s endorsement of the Table Mountain Declaration.

They reiterated that the Table Mountain Declaration seeks to remove the crippling effects of repressive measures, ranging from the jailing and persecution of journalists to the pervasive scourge of ‘insult laws’ and criminal defamation that tend to inhibit journalists from tackling much of the evils that beset the African Continent.

“We therefore call for the exercise of the highest degree of state craft in dealing with the current issue, more so that it represents a major test for our fledgling democracy and the need for a strong press that is not fettered by fears of the strong and extended arms of the government,” the statement under the signature of the Secretary General, Jacob J. Smith concluded.

Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee of the Liberty Party says, its attention has been drawn to the legal battle between the Management of the Frontpage Africa Newspaper and former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Chris Toe bordering on “defamation of character”.

A statement issued by the Party yesterday said its focus is drawn to the trend the case is taking and the potential danger it poses to the country’s collective quest for the building of a vibrant press that responds to the grave challenges of their time, especially, the persistent calls by the national leadership for a robust fight against the national scourge called “Corruption” and other vices.

Liberty Party indicated that as an institution that subscribes to the rule of law, it will do nothing to undermine the interpretation of the law by the High Court as is with the case in point. The Party’s executive committee said while they hold it true that the case is one that does not involve the government as a defendant or a plaintiff, as is being argued by some government functionaries, it reveals, for all practical purposes and intents, a serious reversal of the gains that have been made to lift press freedom to a higher ground, even with government’s endorsement of the Table Mountain Declaration.

They reiterated that the Table Mountain Declaration seeks to remove the crippling effects of repressive measures, ranging from the jailing and persecution of journalists to the pervasive scourge of ‘insult laws’ and criminal defamation that tend to inhibit journalists from tackling much of the evils that beset the African Continent.

“We therefore call for the exercise of the highest degree of state craft in dealing with the current issue, more so that it represents a major test for our fledgling democracy and the need for a strong press that is not fettered by fears of the strong and extended arms of the government,” the statement under the signature of the Secretary General, Jacob J. Smith concluded.

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