Liberia: Freedom of Speech Is God’s Gift to Humanity… Free Rodney Sieh
Does history repeat itself? I think not. But it appears that people tend to repeat the mistakes of the past. I have been thinking: The imprisonment of investigative journalist Rodney Sieh and the closure of his Front Page Africa newspaper are stark mistakes of the past which have somersaulted in our postwar country. Such repeated mistakes must not be taken lightly. Although there are mixed views about the matter involving journalist Sieh and then cabinet minister Chris Toe, the issue of free speech or press freedom remains conspicuous. This scenario reminds one of an old magician adage: “The hands are quicker than the eyes”. So please remove the veil from your eyes and let me neutralize the confusion that has clouded the minds of you my compatriots as the press has been bombarded. At the outset, let’s examine the tiring phrase: “freedom of speech” for a moment.
A few years ago Front Page Africa published some corruption stories, one of which featured some corruption allegations against the then agriculture minister Chris Toe. Not only did the corruption story involving the learned Toe alert President Sirleaf of rampant corruption at the greasy agriculture ministry; it also embarrassed her… But all she did was ask for Toe’s resignation, and Toe resigned without any contention. As ever, her administration blatantly refused to investigate the alleged improprieties let alone prosecute the apparently corrupt cabinet minister. Furthermore, the Sirleaf administration neither denied nor offered any rebuttal to the serious allegations. The administration never refuted the damning reports of Toe’s official misconduct. She simply terminated his services.
The nagging question is: How is it possible for a disgraced cabinet minister who was asked to resign on reports of corruption allegations file a libel lawsuit and win against a journalist who simply reported the allegations? The president of the nation acted on the reported corruption by firing Mr. Toe from her government. In other words, the president was convinced that Toe was guilty, so she sacked him. The real 1.5 Million US dollars question is: Why did the president fire Chris Toe? And what I will like to know is: How come Mr. Toe sued Rodney Sieh for having reported corruption allegations on the basis of which he was terminated and won? This is possible only in a country that is corrupt, with an unjust judiciary system.
The judge at the circuit court issued a guilty verdict against Front Page Africa newspaper ordering its publisher Rodney Sieh to pay 1.5 Million U.S dollars in damages to Chris Toe. The damages are not in Liberian dollar although the legal tender of our country is the Liberian dollar. And this isn’t even a criminal case, but Rodney Sieh is being treated as if he carried out subversive activities while government officials who are embezzling millions with impunity are walking the streets of Liberia as free citizens.
The much-vaunted free press in postwar Liberia is being penalized for executing its duties. A journalist is being punished for having reported the alleged misconduct of a senior government official. But, President Sirleaf is not penalized for terminating her cabinet minister for the same misconduct. How is that possible? Criminal officials of government are roaming the streets of Monrovia while the publisher of a major newspaper is languishing in jail for civil matter. THIS IS NOT A CRIMINAL MATTER. HAS THE COURT ABUSE ITS AUTHORITY?
Is this a joke or are we once again witnessing a thoroughgoing corrupt dictatorship disguised as a functioning democracy with three separate branches of government? This is not democracy but hypocrisy. This government is virtually suffocating free speech while pretending that the law is working independently and that the Executive has nothing to do with the imprisonment of Mr. Sieh. But, as usual, the Executive might soon surface to grant clemency to save the day. What an image of a country!
WAKE UP MY PEOPLE. This is insanity at the highest level. The chief corruptor is not a savior, but the mastermind behind the game.
In 2008, Judge Charles K. William of Criminal Court A at the Temple of Justice boldly said that the Liberian government bribed him with $10,000.00 to influence the ruling and issue a guilty verdict in the case of Charles Julu and Andrew Dorbor. The jurors were also bribed, and that the judge had to nullify the verdict and dismissed the jurors. This matter was never investigated, but the judge was quietly relieved from his post and replaced with Judge Peter Gbeneweleh who had no choice but to set Julu and Dorbor free in May that year.
The government had arrested Julu and Dorbor in 2006 and charged them with treason. This is the justice system we know that exists in Liberia . This government has been in the business of practicing selective justice. THERE IS NO LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL IN LIBERIA . But there is liberty and justice for the few chosen among certain corrupt family members, relatives, friends, and associates who continue to get away with committing crimes against the state.
WHERE ARE THE SO-CALLED PROGRESSIVES?
The Liberian progressives have all become corruptible progressives… People say that the only one who was left in the cold from the so-called progressives is Sam Jackson, because he didn’t get on his knees to beg, so the godmother refused to put his name on the chopping list. Others say that their mouths are zipped; just like the walking dead… They’re also enjoying the loots!! These people condemned and castigated past leaders for social injustices, but today, they’re speechless; and have nothing to offer with substances anymore. In fact, they have become accolades of social injustices in our country; supporters of those who suffocate or suppress free speech; partners and advisers of the most corrupt government on the face of the earth. A DISGRACE TO HUMANITY…
The Liberian government can not neglect to prosecute for corruption but use the broken judiciary to silence the free press.
God’s gift to humanity
God has mandated us to speak the truth. The word of the Lord says to speak the truth and it shall make you free. It’s also a gift from God for us to tell the whole true and nothing but the true; it is prudent that the press speaks the truth. And a decent administrator or executive would have been happy to find out the true about those who embezzle state coffers. And in a case of Chris Toe versus Front Page Africa, a good leader would have realized that the government neglected to prosecute Mr. Toe, and seized the opportunity to do so. But the president allowed this scenario to play out, making sure the rest of her lieutenants learn from Mr. Toe’s mistakes, “Avoid getting caught with your clothes off in broad day light”. In other words, “conceal the loots”.
So, Liberians should not be divided when it comes to understanding the functions of the three separate branches of government. Unfortunately, they are not are not functioning cohesively. Are they? The three branches are broken, and are in dying need of God’s intervention, because they don’t even understand their very own national anthem. Is Liberia really “A home of glorious liberty by God’s command?” Wait… Where is the glorious liberty? The country name is Freedom. But citizens are incarcerated for freely speaking the truth. It’s about time that Liberia live up to its true meaning of its name, Freedom ( Liberia ). Liberty and justice should not be for some privileged few, but for all.
Now, tell me: Who’s commanding Liberia ? Is God really commanding Liberia as the national anthem says or the devil? Well, it appears that someone dressed like a devil is on the rampage, and strangulating God’s children; trying to stop them from speaking the truth. Look here: It’s time to drive the devil back to hell, and make Liberia a real home of glorious liberty by God’s command.
It is morally wrong for anyone in authority to use state power to suppress or control free speech. As humans, we can not harbor fear for one another or allow others to tell us to shut up when we are suffering from vices perpetrated in our society. It’s healthier to discuss social ills and find meaningful solutions. More importantly, we can only fear God! To harbor fear for humans is to have no faith in God. God did not give us a spirit of fear, but that of a conqueror. We must always remember that God is on our side, so the wicked can not do anything to us. NOTHING…
Free Rodney Sieh…
At this junction, the government of Liberia has no choice but to release Rodney Sieh immediately. The judiciary needs to be fixed. It is corrupt and unfit to handle corruption cases. Its credibility needs to be re-established so that we Liberians can have confidence in our justice system. Unfortunately, this Ellen led-government has no moral high ground to establish a credible justice system. In fact, it is grossly incompetent to govern the nation.
I pray that Almighty God continue to bless our country, and make it a real home of glorious liberty.
D. Garkpe Gedepoh is the CEO/Publisher of the African Panorama