Journalist Sieh: FPA’s Fight against Graft in Liberia Remains Unwavering
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – The publisher of the Monrovia based independent newspaper, FrontPageAfrica (FPA), Rodney Sieh, says the paper’s resolve to unearth shady deals in the tiny West African country of Liberia, especially in the public sector remains unflappable. FPA is Liberia’s leading investigative newspaper.
Report by Moses D. Sandy, m[email protected], Contributor
Speaking recently in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he launched his recently
published book, Journalist on Trial, Mr. Sieh said despite being demonized and called “fake
news”, FPA wouldn’t falter in exposing public servants, who are fixated on depleting the
nation’s coffers through corrupt practices. He said the Paper like any other Liberian media entity
has the legal, moral and professional obligations to protect the public’s interest against
individuals, who are preoccupied with the overnight acquisition of wealth.
The book, Journalist on Trial, was published in October 2018. Mr. Sieh said he authored the book as part of his crusade against corruption and bad governance; failure to adhere to the rule of law, nepotism, favoritism, among other iniquities in Liberia. He said although the book gives account of his arrest and prosecution in 2013 for an alleged trumped-up libel charge during the reign of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, it also, provides an insight to the 1980 military coup in Liberia, the ended 14 years civil wars in the country, and other critical national matters of importance.
He said as a journalist, he possesses no gun but he and his team at FPA would utilize the might of their pens in fighting against injustices and ensuring accountability in the public sector in Liberia. He said despite the alleged name calling and the conspiracy by some individuals in the Liberian government to literally strangulate the Paper and the Liberian media through punitive actions, “we wouldn’t budge-down in the execution of our professional duties.” He said “I am not afraid of death. This is what we should be doing protecting our legacy. The injustices and the culture of impunity in Liberia must come to an end”.
He said although perpetrators of the 1980 military takeover in Liberia and the 14 years civil wars that followed beginning 1990 to 2003 wantonly destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of properties and the lives of thousands of Liberians under the guise of exterminating greed and corruption in government, the problems of injustices, dishonesty and graft in present-day Liberia are far worse than what they were before in previous administrations. He maintained “today we have people in power, who are brazenly engaging in corruption, thievery, nepotism and favoritism, but when the media reports it, then they demonize us. They call us fake news”. He continued “the same people, who are in power today and are calling us fake news, were the same people that we gave platforms in speaking against the ills of the administration of former President Johnson-Sirleaf when they were in opposition and they needed the media most”.
He cited the reported missing 16 billion Liberian dollars scandal and the US 25 million dollars, which the Liberian government through the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, claimed recently to have infused into the Liberian economy to mop up what the government calls excess Liberian dollars from the market, as examples of some of the salient financial matters that continue to haunt the credibility of the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) led government in the stewardship of Liberia. Then Minister Tweah is reported to have told the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) in an interview that the money was reportedly given to importers, mostly the Lebanese and some money exchangers in New Kru and Logan Towns, and Mamba Point. According to media reports, the Minister said the government didn’t utilize the banking system for the excess liquidity mop up exercise because the banks would have made no impact.
Journalist Sieh told his fellow US based Liberians that in the next few weeks FPA would begin running series of news stories on alleged corrupt practices by insiders of the Weah administration. He disclosed “FPA has in its possession dozens of vouchers and other financial documents that link some officials of government to uncontrollable theft.”
He said present-day Liberia’s foremost problem is sycophancy. He claimed most Liberians worship their leaders even when things are visibly bad or wrong; they still glorify them. “They lie to their leaders just to be favored for pecuniary gains. They shield them from the reality of life”, he stated sadly. He said such habits are not good for the building of a peaceful and stable society.
Status of the Liberian Media
Responding to a question on the current state of the Liberian media, Mr. Sieh reported most journalists and media institutions in the country are struggling financially as a result of alleged deliberate actions by some insiders of the government to strangulate them. He maintained “as part of their plan to silence the vibrancy of the media, a lot of us, who they consider as critical of the administration are being labeled and targeted. They call us fake news and exclude from government’s contracts when advertisements are being awarded to media institutions”. The Liberian government is the largest advertiser in the country. Advertisement is the life blood of any media institution. He said despite the intervention by the leadership of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) in resolving the problem, some journalists and media institutions that are erroneously seen as enemies of the Weah administration are being targeted and sidelined.
War Crimes Court
Commenting on the call for the establishment of a war crimes court in Liberia as a means of giving justice to victims of the ended Liberian civil wars through the prosecution of those who committed mayhems against Liberia and the vulnerable, Journalist Sieh said he supports the preposition because there is a need to render justice to it is due. He said he personal disagrees with individuals and groups that are vehemently opposed to the suggestion. He argued “those who are opposed or are preaching hate messages against the creation of a war crimes court in Liberia, are rebels. They are the ones, who willfully murdered others during the civil wars; and they are trying to shield themselves by saying there is no need for a war crime court in Liberia.”