Liberian Journalist Sentenced To 5,000 Years In Prison Laments Ordeal

Rodney D Sieh

LAGOS SEPTEMBER 25TH (NEWSRANGERS)-Rodney D Sieh, editor of Liberia’s FrontPageAfrica, reflects on what his career says about the state of journalism in West Africa.
“My claim to infamy was being sentenced to 5,000 years in prison for failing to pay libel damages of $1.6m (£1.2m) won by a former minister who sued my paper after we published the findings of a government audit.
“It had found that funds worth $6m intended to combat an army-worm epidemic were unaccounted for.
“I served four months in 2013 in the notorious Monrovia Central Prison, where I was thrown into a cell with murderers, armed robbers and petty criminals.
The prison, built in the capital city to hold 200 prisoners, has more than 1,000 inmates. Nearly half of them have been detained without trial.
“Over the years, it has built a reputation as a haven for hard-core criminals and where critics of government are sent to be taught a lesson.
“I remember the head of the facility trying to convince me to give the menu of the day a try: a plate of beans and rice with no meat or fish – and maggots squirming around the cart on which the food was stacked.
“It took the might of an international outcry, massive protests from supporters and sympathisers and an op-ed in the New York Times to force the government of then-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to get me out of prison.
“The challenges of bringing these stories to light are enormous. Reporters take risks for little pay as newspaper owners struggle to pay staff and keep the generator running because of an unstable electricity supply.
“Had I succumbed, I would by now have been among the hundreds of journalists in the forgotten pages of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ annual press report.
“Had I backed down, perhaps I would still be serving a 5,000-year jail sentence for criminal libel, a law I intend to fight for as long as I live.”I have come this far because I refuse to back down and I refuse to give in.”
Rodney D Sieh is the author of of the forthcoming book Journalist on Trial – Fighting Corruption, Media Muzzling sand a 5,000-Year Prison Sentence in Liberia.
BBC report

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Posted by on Sep 25 2018. Filed under International. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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