Conditions behind the release of Rodney Sieh are still unclear. Sieh was imprisoned on libel charges after his paper failed to substantiate its claims that a former government minister diverted millions of dollars intended to fight an epidemic in Liberia.
The jailed Publisher of the FrontPage Africa Newspaper has been granted “Compassionate Release” for thirty days.
FrontPage Africa news editor Ms. Williams has told the Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP) that Mr. Sieh was released for thirty days on orders from the Ministry of Justice.
The conditions or circumstances behind the release of the imprisoned journalist are still unclear. It is also unclear what happens after the 30 days.
Rodney Sieh and his newspaper were found guilty by a lower court of libeling former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. The court ruled that the paper failed to substantiate its claims that the minister diverted millions of dollars intended to fight an epidemic in two regions of Liberia.
The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower court after Mr. Sieh refused to perfect his appeal on the basis that he does not trust the Supreme Court.
CEMESP sees this as a welcoming development. Commenting on the news, Executive Director Malcolm Joseph expressed the hope that this might be a prelude to definitive closure of a matter involving the levying of the onerous US$ 1.6 million or a life term sentence for Sieh until he defrays the fine.
The Liberian government is somewhat embarrassed by this matter that has drastically subtracted from the country’s free speech credential, and the compassionate release could a way of making amends.
Sieh has since been hospitalized at the John F Kennedy Hospital when his health deteriorated in prison.
The newspaper remains closed but the online version continues publication in defiance of the plaintiff Dr. Chris Toe’s precondition towards out of court settlement abortive mediation.