Journalist Sieh under house arrest

By Our Monrovia Correspondence; October 21, 2013

Monrovia: Liberian Journalist, Rodney Sieh, of the Frontpage Africa newspaper has been immediately placed under house arrest upon the order of Liberia’s Justice Ministry (MoJ).

Journalist Sieh was on October 7, 2013 granted a compassionate release by the MoJ for a period of 30 days and ordered not to leave the city of Monrovia without first seeking permission from Assistant Justice Minister for the Bureau of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“As you are quite aware, the aforesaid compassionate leave is now before the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia. Hence, it has become necessary to impose an additional conditionality on the leave until final determination of the Supreme Court,” a communication from the MoJ to Mr. Sieh Lawyer read.

The communication under the signature of MoJ Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh, which is in possession of the INSIGHT reads, “Effectively, immediately and upon the directive of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General Hon. Christiana Tah Mr., Sieh is to remain confined to his house until the expiration of the period granted for the compassionate leave.”

According to the directive, if for any compelling reason Mr. Sieh is to leave his house, he must obtain prior approval from Assistant Justice Minister for corrections and rehabilitation.

The MoJ directive at the same time maintained that in order to ensure that Journalist Sieh’s additional conditionality is observed, the Liberia National Police (LNP) has been directed to keep surveillance on Mr. Sieh house and its immediate perimeter.

The communication also stressed that any attempt by Mr. Sieh to leave his house without prior approval will be considered a violation of the conditions of his leave.

Mr. Sieh’s compassionate release was based on letter addressed to Justice Minister Christiana Tah. Among other things, Sieh’s lawyers argued that Mr. Sieh had not been convicted of a criminal offense and is not a danger to the general public.

The letter also noted that Mr. Sieh had apologized to the court for disrespect he had shown in his attitude, including writings and utterances.

Sieh’s lawyers also feared that continuous confinement may likely lead to a lapse of debilitating mental illness.
Mr. Sieh was held liable by a jury panel in a civil case filed against him by Dr. J, Chris Toe, who claimed that Mr. Sieh had written defamatory articles against him in 2010.

However, the articles Dr. Toe claimed as defamatory were based on reports released by the General Auditing Commission on the Ministry of Agriculture where Dr. Toe was serving as Minister.

Mr. Sieh’s article published by the Frontpage Africa newspaper said that the US$1 million given to the ministry during Dr. Toe's administration was not used for the intended purpose.

Although Mr. Sieh had cited the GAC’s report as reliance, the jury found him liable and ordered him to pay US$1.5 million to Dr. Toe, which led to his imprisonment, for failing to adhere to the order.