The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) on Monday officially launched the “Free Rodney Sieh” Campaign in Monrovia.
At the official launch which brought together scores of journalists, as well as civil society organizers, students advocates and well-wishers, the PUL president, Peter Quaqua pointed out that the imprisonment of Journalist Sieh is a serious embarrassment for Liberia both locally and internationally.
Mr. Quaqua further called onthe Government of Liberia to “unconditionally” release the jailed Managing Editor of the Front Page Africa (FPA), Mr. Rodney Sieh for the sake of peace.
According to Mr. Quaqua, the prominent Liberian journalist does not deserve to be in jail and as such, the FPA boss should be released in the name of good journalism.
Mr. Quaqua made the statement at the Headquarters of the Press Union of Liberia when he officially launched the Campaign to show solidarity to the imprisoned FPA Managing Editor, Mr. Sieh.
Journalist Sieh, a prominent Liberian journalist, was sent to prison by the Civil Law Court for his failure to pay the amount of US$1,534,000.00 and L$10,500 to former Agriculture Minister, Dr. Chris Toe for damages in a libel suit.
Journalist Sieh also failed to pay US$90,000 and L$6,800 as cost of the court. In 2010, Dr. Toe filed a lawsuit against the Management of FPA in which FPA was held liable for libel and was asked to pay the amount of US$1,534,000.00 to the Dr. Toe.
At the launch of the Campaign, Mr. Quaqua pointed out that the ruling from the court was “excessive,” in that the US$ 1.5M charged by the court is more than the war crime conviction of former Liberian President, Charles G. Taylor.
Mr. Quaqua calculated that such amount would be considered life time imprisonment in that journalist Sieh would spend 5,000 years in prison if he (Sieh) does not pay the amount at the rate of US$25 per month.
“We are formalizing the launch of this FREE RODNEY SIEH CAMPAIGN. It’s more than a month since he was arrested on the 21st of August, 2013 and you and I know that he has been in and out of the hospital. We’ve come to renew our calls to government to release him. We believe that the event of his arrest, detention and illness is uncalled for. It’s one that our government should not allow to go on,” Mr. Quaqua added.
According to him, there are actions taking place around the world and they in Liberia cannot sit, watch and listen to what is happening around them.
Mr. Quaqua said, “For too long, we have seen how the court system has been used to intimidate the media after years of repressive and brutal attacks against the media. There are three other lawsuits ranging from US$6M to US$11M. I don’t know the sense of judgment of those in authority.”
“How do they believe that anybody in this country who runs a media entity can pay even US$100,000?” the PUL president wondered and added “It is a little bit shameful that they will charge a journalist US$1.5M in this time and days of our country. We should not stop talking about this until Rodney Sieh is released from jail.”
Mr. Quaqua explained that if they don’t do so, it is possible that of the three lawsuits, one of those media institutions would be in jail the next day.
He reiterated that the Union is using its moral authority to call on the government to release Rodney in the interest of journalism, peace, reconciliation and all of the democracy that we’ve talked about in this country.
However, the FrontPage Africa took an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia, but was unable to secure an appeal bond. Based on the legal proceedings, the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter of justice in Liberia, affirmed the lower court judgment and ordered the bail of Cost on the FPA.
Since the ruling, Journalist Sieh has maintained that he stands by his story against Dr. Toe and was prepared to go to jail. Journalist sieh who has spent more than a month at the Monrovia Central Prison, insisted that he did not do anything wrong and has therefore remained steadfast and resolute.