The Press Union of Liberia (PUL) has renewed calls for the Government of Liberia (GoL) to "unconditionally" release the jailed Managing Editor of the Front Page Africa (FPA), Mr. Rodney Sieh.
The PUL through its President, Mr. Peter Quaqua, called on the GoL set free Mr. Sieh free for the sake of peace here.
Mr. Quaqua pointed out that the prominent Liberian journalist does not deserve to be in jail and therefore, the FPA boss should be released in the name of good journalism.
According to him, Liberia is currently faced with a serious embarrassment both locally and internationally due to the imprisonment of Mr. Sieh. The PUL President made these assertions on Monday, September 23, 2013 at ceremony marking the launch of the "FREE RODNEY CAMPAIGN" held at the headquarters of the PUL on Clay Street in Monrovia.
Hundreds of Liberian journalists, international correspondents, political analysts and civil society actors, amongst others gathered at the ceremony to show solidarity to the imprisoned FPA Managing Editor. Mr. Sieh, a prominent Liberian journalist, was ordered jailed by the Civil Law for failing to pay the amount of US$1,534,000.00 and L$10,500 to Dr. Toe for damages in a libel suit.
In addition, Mr. Sieh also failed to pay US$90,000 and L$6,800 as cost of the court. It can be recalled that sometimes ago, Dr. Toe sued 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 former agriculture ministry boss.
FrontPage Africa took an appeal to the Supreme Court of Liberia, but was unable to perfect the appeal bond. Based on the legal proceedings, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court judgment and ordered the bail of Cost on the FPA.
The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in the country.
Despite this ruling against the FPA, the paper has since stood by its story against Dr. Toe. Mr. Sieh persistently stated that he did not do anything wrong. The prominent Liberian journalist has spent a little over a month in prison at the Monrovia Central Prison.
But speaking further, Mr. Quaqua reiterated that the ruling from the court was "excessive." According to him, the court's ruling to compel the FPA boss to pay the amount of US$1.5M for libel damage is more than the war crime conviction of former Liberian President Charles G. Taylor.
He said Mr. 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.
There are actions taken place around the world and we in Liberia cannot sit, watch and listen to what is happening around us," said the PUL President.
He added: "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? 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.
If we don't do so, it is possible that of the three lawsuits, one of those media institutions would be in jail the next day. We want to use our moral authority to call on our government to release Rodney in the interest of journalism, peace, reconciliation and all of the democracy that we've talked about in this country."