Media watchers have no doubt that divided opinions across the Liberian media landscape on circumstances surrounding the imprisonment of the publisher of the FrontPageAfrica (FPA) newspaper, Rodney Sieh, preclude any act of solidarity for his release. For a while, the Press Union of Liberia had thought that was a fair assessment of the situation, even though it held that the assessment has not the full picture of the factors that militated against non-judicial action to secure Mr. Sieh's release. Now, the Union says all that is over, and that it is going all out - utilizing the full force of the power available to it - to secure the release of the FPA editor. It is launching the "Free Rodney Campaign" as he goes back to the hospital. The Analyst presents below the Union's declaration:
The Press Union of Liberia yesterday announced series of actions in further solidarity with the jailed Publisher of Front Page Africa Newspaper, Rodney Sieh, who has been taken back to hospital.
The launch of the Liberia version of the "FREE RODNEY CAMPAIGN" will take place on Monday, September 23rd in Monrovia with a nation-wide poster and signature campaigns, calling for his release from prison.
As of Monday, PUL says, newspapers, radio and television stations will carry messages in support of the release of Rodney, who has now spent his first month in jail since he was seized on August 21st.
Media practitioners, partners and friends of the media are expected to attend a mass open air rally on Monday in front of the PUL headquarters on Clay Street, which will be marred by speeches and redemption songs. The ceremony starts at 12:Noon
PUL President Peter Quaqua said the Union is buoyant by the courage and resilience shown by Rodney so far in standing his ground, amidst calls for apology to Dr. Toe and his ill-health. "While we do not feel good to have a colleague in jail for one minute, we are extremely challenged that Rodney is prepared to stay in jail to expose the tyranny of our legal system and must stand with him."
By this show of resilience, the PUL President believes "the Liberian Government will now accelerate the reform initiatives of the country's remaining media laws, which have been treated with lip service; and ours is now a call to get seized of this opportunity."
PUL alarms that Rodney continues to be treated by government as a criminal since he was arrested a month ago. He's guarded by armed police even in hospital and kept in an overcrowded cell among harden criminals, where he fell sick on August 28 and taken to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, the country's biggest referral.
The Union says Rodney was whisked off from the Hospital in handcuffs on Tuesday morning, September 17 and taken back to prison against the doctors' advice; but was returned to hospital at the weekend [Saturday, September 21, 2013]as his condition is reported to have worsened.
He had being initially treated for pneumonia; it not known yet what new conditions he has developed as a result of his force return to prison by Justice Ministry authorities, the PUL lamented.
PUL also reports that a letter to Justice Minister Christiana Tah, dated September 20 under the signature of Cllr. Beyan Howard, one of councils for Rodney, requested "an official incident report and medical report on the circumstances which led to his previous experience as well as the medical report from the John F. Kennedy Medical Hospital."
Rodney's return to jail is said to have been triggered by a Bill of Information filed with the Civil Law Court by Dr. Chris Toe's Lawyers contending among other things that "Sieh has been unilaterally release without any order from the court," due to his continuous stay in hospital.
A writ of summons for contempt of court was subsequently issued on the Justice Ministry, which led to the quick return of Rodney to prison, but that decision was to be short-lived as his condition suffered setback.
Meanwhile, a pool of willing lawyers working on the Rodney defense has filed a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the imprisonment of Rodney Sieh, citing several provisions of the constitution including Article 21, which talks about excessive fines..
The lawyers, working with the Dean & Associates Inc, of Cllr. Musah Dean, including Kwame Clement, have petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a stay order against the continued detention of Rodney Sieh pending the disposition of the matter.