Liberia: Imprisoned Journalist Begins Hunger Strike

The managing editor of the FrontPageAfrica newspaper has spent his second night in jail following his incarceration by the civil law court of the temple of justice. The FPA boss refused food brought into the prison for him by family members on Thursday.

The FPA Managing Editor who has not had food nor water for over 24hours since his imprisonment has vowed to remain in jail adding that no amount of pressure from anyone or state apparatus will lead him to abandoning his fight for social justice and transparency in Liberia.

As Sieh spent his first daylight in prison at the Monrovia Central Prison at South beach, the government of Liberia official propaganda arm the ministry of information was holding its regular press briefing in Monrovia on Thursday.

Information Minister Lewis Brown told reporters when quizzed about the government position on the incarceration of Sieh that it was the choice of FrontpageAfrica’s Managing Editor, Rodney Sieh to either abide by the court’s ruling to pay the US$1.5million to former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe or go to jail adding that Sieh chose the later.

He said the Publisher of Liberia’s leading news brand was never imprisoned for writing about the issue of corruption in the Sirleaf led government.

“I admire Mr. Sieh, he says ‘even though I went to the court and the court found me guilty I am not going to abide by it. I prefer to go to jail.’ It’s a choice. He is not in jail because of something he said that the government is uncomfortable with. He is in jail because he made a choice. I will not listen to the court,” Information Minister Lewis Browne told journalists at the regular press briefing Thursday.

Minister Browne, who himself was a huge critic of the Sirleaf-led government is on record for calling the President ‘President Candidate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’ and someone who has desecrated the sanctity of the office of President.

Despite signing the Table Mountain Declaration journalists continue to be dragged to court for what they write in Liberia. Brown confirmed that Liberia did not make a commitment not to prosecute journalists in the country. “Yor pass the Table Mountain Declaration this thing will not happen. In fact it will happen more,” he said.

In addition to the Table Mountain Declaration Liberia also signed into law the Freedom of Information Act in to law. The Sirleaf led government prides itself on what it calls the level of freedom of the press being enjoyed by journalists in the country.

But in recent times attacks there have been series of attacks against the media by functionaries of the government. A most recent case involved the President’s elite guard the Executive Protection Service. Its head Othello Warrick threatened to go after journalists who write critical articles against public officials.

Minster Browne’s statement on Thursday in defense of the incarceration of Sieh seems to be a concerted effort by the government to clam down on free press political pundits say. But Brown belies the FPA boss is being fairly treated for the path he chose to thread with the government through the court.

“Nobody wants to see another citizen anger again whether by the bullets or by the pen without consequence,” he said.

Frontpage Africa was fined US$1.5 million by the Seventh Judicial Circuit court in a libel case against the institution brought on by former Agriculture Minister Toe. Mr. Sieh had maintained that he did not trust the judicial system. Moreover he cannot afford to pay the said amount.

Protests on Wednesday

On Wednesday Monrovia witnessed hundreds of young Liberians protesting the jailing of Sieh. But Information Minister Brown condemned the action of the youths.

“Ask yourself is it right or because my party call on me to do it? This country is changing and some people are being left behind. I heard somebody saying it was government conspiracy. It had to include the jury, Dr. Teo. Stop this about ourselves,” Brown said.