MONROVIA (AFP) – One of Liberia’s leading local daily newspapers has been shut down after its publisher was jailed for libel over a report about government corruption, its staff told AFP on Tuesday.
Rodney Sieh, managing director of Frontpage Africa, was taken into custody on Wednesday last week following a Supreme Court ruling that the paper should pay US $1.6 million (1.2 million euros) for libelling former agriculture minister J. Chris Toe.
The court ordered that the paper be closed down until the damages are paid in full.
“Law enforcement officers closed our offices on Friday. So I will say that today makes it two days since we stopped publishing,” Wade Williams, one of the paper’s editors, told AFP.
“The workers have all stopped coming to work because the building was locked by the court.”
Toe successfully sued the paper after Sieh wrote a story in 2009 accusing the minister of stealing government funds.
Williams said Sieh had been on hunger strike since his arrest on Wednesday last week.
“He has not been eating at all. People are talking to him to eat but he has categorically refused to do so. We are very worried because his condition is getting worse by the day,” Williams said.
Frontpage 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.