Monday, October 21, 2013

Liberian Editor Rodney Sieh Placed Under House Arrest

Campaigning for the Release of Rodney Sieh


This blog has devoted quite a bit of space in the past few weeks to highlight the issue of Liberian editor of FrontPage Africa, Rodney Sieh. This is because the international community continues to ignore the assaults on the freedom of expression in that country. [See for coverage by this blog: here, here and here.]

Liberia is regarded as one of the few countries on the African continent pulling ahead of its peers in establishing democracy, especially in the post-Charles Taylor era. Therefore, ‘minor misdemeanours’ such as Monrovia jailing editors like Sieh should not undermine ties the leading nations on the globe would like cultivating with Liberia. Liberia’s president is Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has great standing in the corridors of power in the world’s liberal democracies which drive opinion and shape politics in the so-called free world.


This blog has covered previously Sieh fortunes in the hands of its tormentors. The latest was Liberia’s Ministry of Justice placing Sieh on 30-day parole on compassionate grounds from October 8, but facing blowback from the Supreme Court for its action. The court asked the Justice Minister Christina Tah to show cause as to why she should not be held for contempt of court because she had released Sieh on parole.

The result has been the Liberian government changing the rules and ordering that Sieh spends the remaining days of his parole under house arrest. It has to be understood that Sieh undertook a hunger strike soon after he was incarcerated and contacted malaria due to which he was in hospital for 22 days.

“‘Any attempt by Mr. Sieh to leave his house without prior approval as herein provided, shall be considered a violation of the conditions of his leave,’ the Justice Ministry which recently granted a 30-day compassionate reprieve for the detained publisher, warned in a letter to Cllr. Benyan Howard, one of Mr Sieh's lawyers,” said the Monrovia-based New Democrat.

“Accordingly, the government has assigned police officers to the Congo Town residence of the publisher to keep 24-hour surveillance on the editor and his immediate environment. He will remain at home until the expiry of the 30-day compassionate release granted him by the Justice Ministry,” the New Democrat continued.

Commenting on the new development in the case it has meticulously covered Reporters without Borders (RSF) said, “The house arrest order contradicts the parole that Sieh was granted on health grounds. Sieh is like a ball being batted to and fro in a power struggle between different Liberian officials. This constitutes cruel treatment and we call for the immediate withdrawal of this measure, which restricts his freedom of movement and his access to health care.

“The house arrest order came two days after the Supreme Court ordered justice minister Christiana Tah to show cause why she should not be held in contempt for ordering Sieh’s temporary release in ‘defiance’ of the court’s decision in August to jail him for failing to pay 1.6 million dollars in damages to a former agriculture minister.

“Sieh will now have to spend the remaining days of his parole confined to his home and under constant police surveillance.

In a letter from prison published in The New York Times Sieh referred sarcastically to Liberia as the “poster-child of democracy in Africa.” Except for a few indignant voices no one seems wanting to dislodge Liberia from that lofty perch.

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