If the imprisonment of Rodney Sieh was meant to send a message, it has: That we can never take a free press for granted.
Given the choice between a free government and a free press, Thomas Jefferson said he would choose a free press. We would agree.
Yet, this is not a matter of such choices. Both "freedoms" are necessary, and neither can function well apart from the other.
Liberia should shine as an example of that. In a country whose president was honored with a Nobel for protecting democracy, we expect no less. Every day Sieh is imprisoned makes Liberia the wrong kind of example.
Jailing Rodney Sieh was a mistake. Freeing him would be the brave thing -- and right thing -- to do.
About Rodney and FrontPage Africa
Imprisoned Editor and Publisher Rodney D. Sieh is a veteran Liberian journalist with more than seventeen years experience. During the height of the civil war in Liberia, he was a senior reporter for the Monrovia Daily News, venturing on the frontlines with ECOMOG peacekeepers to report on the casualties and progress of the devastating war.
In 1992, Sieh fled Liberia for The Gambia to help his uncle Kenneth Best in run the independent Daily Observer. While in The Gambia, Sieh became a correspondent for the BBC. During the 1994 coup there Sieh braved gunfire to score the first interview with the new ruler Yahyay Jammeh and his key lieutenants. In the aftermath of the coup Sieh covered a string of disappearances and mysterious killings. When Sieh’s uncle, Mr. Best was arrested in late September 1994, Sieh broke the news on the BBC and soon after Jammeh’s forces went out in search of him, forcing him into hiding. Mr. Sieh fled to London en route to the United States.
A graduate with honors in Media Studies from Hunter College, Mr. Sieh has worked with several U.S. newspapers including Newport News, Syracuse Post Standard and the Daily Record. He worked as an intern at the Newark Star Ledger and the Kansas City Star. At Hunter College, Sieh, was among the pilot team which launched the first online college newspaper, The Word, which many students past and present use to build their resumes and journalism credentials.
Rodney along with a small team of dedicated staff, has successfully transformed news visual and investigative skills into the widely-read FrontPageAfrica.com which was launched in June 2005 and now enjoys almost 20 million visitors a month. FrontPageAfrica, along with other civil society groups, have been at the forefront of efforts to strengthen Liberia’s new democracy which, if it is to be sustainable, must be built on the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. In this respect, FrontPageAfrica has been at the forefront of the battle to expose corruption and acts inimical to good governance in Liberia that has earned it the respect and admiration of the Liberian populace.
The stories published by FrontPageAfrica have led to specific policy reforms to strengthen Liberia’s new democratic institutions, and to provide greater transparency and public accountancy in government, but these struggles are far from over and must be sustained at all levels.
FrontPage Africa reporters (in collaboration with New Narratives) have raised issue after issue that has never been covered before sparking debate and action by government, international agencies and Liberians at home and abroad. Our reporting has: forced government to come out with its first public stand against female genital cutting; prompted programs to tackle teenage prostitution, child labor, drug trafficking and teen pregnancy; exposed police abuse of rape victims and forced the arrest of perpetrators; brought down corrupt government figures and prompted fines on foreign companies breaching deals with local people.
FrontPage Africa's reporting has garnished numerous awards and their work has been published in the New York Times, PBS Newshour, NPR, The Guardian among others.
- German Media Development Prize for Africa, Wade Williams
- Journalist of the Year, Press Union of Liberia, Wade Williams
- Best Human Rights Story, LMC/JHR Awards, Massa Kanneh
- Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Mae Azango
- CPJ Press Freedom Award, Mae Azango
- Newspaper of the Year for Best Human Rights stories, Liberia Media Center
- Newspaper of the Year for Best Human Rights stories, Journalist for Human Rights
- LMC/JHR Arch Bishop Micheal K. Francis Human Rights award, Wade Williams
- Legislative Reporter of the year, Wade Williams, Press Union of Liberia
- Dag Hammerskjold Fund Fellowship, Wade Williams
- Pulitzer Fellowship, Tecee Boley
- Pulitzer Center Grant Winner, Tecee Boley/li>
- Investigative Journalist of the year, Nat Bayjay, Press Union of Liberia
- Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Clara Mallah
- Newspaper of the Year, Press Union of Liberia