Hunger strike Liberia journo hospitalised
03 September 2013, 17:03
Monrovia -The editor of one of Liberia's leading newspapers was spending his eighth day in hospital on Tuesday after he was jailed over reports about government corruption, its staff told AFP.
Rodney Sieh, who publishes Frontpage Africa, was taken into custody on 21 August following a Supreme Court ruling that the paper should pay US$1.6m for libelling former agriculture minister J Chris Toe.
The court ordered that the paper be closed down until the damages are paid in full and Sieh was sent to jail, where he was reported to have launched a hunger strike.
He was rushed to hospital on 27 August after a rapid decline in his condition, according to global press freedom campaign group Reporters Without Borders.
"He is responding to the treatment and has started eating," said Frontpage Africa desk editor Wade Williams, confirming that Sieh was still in hospital.
Toe successfully sued the paper after Sieh wrote a series of stories in 2009 accusing the minister of embezzling agriculture ministry funds.
Frontpage Africa has been vociferous in its criticism of the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in recent years.
Sieh is expected to remain incarcerated until he pays the damages or Sirleaf intervenes.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists described Sieh's detention as "disproportionate and tainted with political undertones" and called on Sirleaf to pardon him.
"We believe that jailing journalists in civil libel cases, and imposing or threatening to impose civil libel damages so exorbitant as to lead to the closure of news organisations, undermine press freedom and creates a climate of self-censorship," the CPJ said in a letter to the president seen by AFP.
The New York-based lobby group called on Sirleaf to amend Liberia's libel laws in line with international standards, according to which "public figures are required to accept a greater degree of criticism than private citizens".