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Liberia


Kenneth Harper

Sirleaf must reform libel laws

CPJ calls on Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to decriminalize defamation, adopt monetary damages in line with harm done, and halt the incarceration of defendants unable to pay. Rodney Sieh, right, was jailed for not paying US$1.5 million in damages.
Sieh out for 30 days
FrontPageAfrica shut, editor jailed
Government liable for Sieh's health

Economists and political scientists acknowledge that journalism is vital to development and democracy. By Robert Mahoney

Pakistani investigative journalist Umar Cheema has exposed corruption in Parliament. (AFP/Aamir Qu)

Surveillance, restrictive Internet legislation, and cyberattacks compel CPJ to add cyberspace to the list of places trending in the wrong direction. By Maya Taal

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood try to push a journalist, center, away from the police academy where ousted President Mohamed Morsi was on trial on the outskirts of Cairo, November 4, 2013. Perhaps nowhere did press freedom decline more dramatically in 2013 than in polarized Egypt. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Photo credit, Barbara Nitke (CPJ)

Journalists honored at CPJ's annual award ceremony

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef was among four journalists who received CPJ's 2013 International Press Freedom Award on November 26. Youssef has used humor to report on and criticize government failures to improve the economy and public services, and its efforts to suppress opinion. In November, Youssef's show was suspended.

"Freedom of expression is not a privilege; it is a universal right," Youssef told the crowd gathered at New York's Waldorf-Astoria hotel. "Now, you don't have to be a journalist or a reporter. You can just be an ordinary citizen with a camera and a YouTube channel. This is how we started. I don't know how this will end. ... But at least this is how we started."

CPJ also awarded Janet Hinostroza, a leading TV reporter in Ecuador, who has continued to work despite threats to her and her family; Nedim Şener, who faces up to 15 years in jail on terrorism charges because of his reporting; and Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, who was not present at the ceremony because he is serving a 12-year prison sentence for "conducting propaganda" against the state.

Thanks to Dan Doctoroff, chief executive officer and president of Bloomberg, who chaired the ceremony, the dinner raised a record $1.65 million for CPJ's worldwide press freedom advocacy. Many of the distinguished guests at the event also pledged support during a special appeal at the end of the night. Those funds were matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, contributing another $200,000. 

Norman Pearlstine, executive vice president and chief content officer of Time Inc., presented Paul Steiger, founding editor-in-chief of ProPublica and former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for his lifetime commitment to press freedom.

A court in the capital Monrovia on November 18, 2013, officially ordered the release from prison of FrontPageAfrica publisher Rodney Sieh and the reopening of the offices of the private daily newspaper, according to news reports. The newspaper will resume its daily publication on November 25, 2013, Sieh told CPJ.

New York, October 8, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Monday's decision by Liberia's Ministry of Justice to grant Rodney Sieh--the publisher of FrontPageAfrica who has been jailed since August for not paying libel damages--"compassionate release" for 30 days. The conditions behind Sieh's release were not clear, but the journalist's health had deteriorated in prison. It is also unclear what will happen to Sieh after 30 days.

Dear President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: We call on you to decriminalize defamation; adopt monetary damages for libel commensurate with the harm done and within limits Liberians can afford; and halt the incarceration of defendants unable to pay, which is highly unusual in civil cases. We urge you to facilitate the release of jailed journalist Rodney Sieh and the reopening of his newspaper, FrontPageAfrica.

New York, August 28, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by today's hospitalization of leading Liberian independent journalist Rodney Sieh, who has been on hunger strike since his imprisonment on August 21.

A screen shot of FrontPageAfrica's home page.

Abuja, Nigeria, August 23, 2013--The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemns moves by Liberian authorities to shut down FrontPageAfrica and jail its publisher for not paying US$1.5 million in damages related to a libel conviction.

(Pan African Parliament)

The Pan African Parliament's (PAP) launch of a media freedom campaign through a "Dialogue on Media Freedom in Africa" in mid-May marks an important and welcome starting point. For too long, media freedom has been divorced from the debate around development and democratization when it has an integral role to play in promoting transparency, underpinning good governance, and enabling citizens to make informed decisions.

Liberian newspapers protest threatening remarks by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's security chief. (Wade Williams/FrontPage Africa)

Most governments, even repressive ones, at least give lip service to supporting freedom of the press--especially on World Press Freedom Day, May 3. But in Liberia this month, Othello Daniel Warrick, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's chief security aide, shocked local journalists by threatening them and calling them "terrorists" at a public event to mark the occasion, according to news reports and local media groups.

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Africa

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Sue Valentine

Advocacy Coordinator:
Mohamed Keita

East Africa Consultant:
Tom Rhodes

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Peter Nkanga

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