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Liberian journalists losing their press freedoms

Two Liberian journalists have been silenced as of late as the government and critics look to silence their freedom of speech.

FrontPage Africa is an independent news office in Liberia which has been coming under a lot of scrutiny as of late because of its various criticisms on a multitude of topics. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the publication is internationally well regarded as one that has raised a strong and powerful voice toward a variety of societal and government injustices, however, following a "libel" suit, the publication faces many challenges in its fights against corruption.

Incidents in May
One of the more recent troubles that was leveled against the news website was in May towards journalist, Mae Azango, who had wrote a story about female genital mutilation, according to the Index on Censorship. The report condemned the practice, which according to the Index on Censorship's coverage, occurs on 2 of every three girls in the country. The published piece leveled criticism against the practice, which is used by many tribes in the country.

Following the piece's publication, Azango was forced into hiding as she received many threats in the form of phone calls and confrontations.

Publisher jailed
Most recently the publisher of the news outlet, Rodney Sieh, was jailed because of failure to pay a $1.5 million in damages following a guilty libel conviction, according to the CPJ. The conviction stems from an article that was published about a former government minister, Chris Toe, who was accused of corruption while in his position.

What is interesting to note is that Toe in fact resigned from his position before his term ended, though he was never charged. He leveled the suit against FrontPage Africa and won because on the ground that he was never accused after he resigned.

Sieh elected to go to jail rather than pay the fines, and since his jailing has neither eaten nor drank water. CPJ reports that many local journalists see the court's ruling as an attempt to silence the publication and that this practice of charging libel suits is quite common.

What is discouraging about this case is the fact that the article that was published is exactly how the publisher was jailed. Speech in public and in print is one of the most important tools that one can level against a corruption, be it societal or government imposed, and when jailing occur, these voices then become silenced. 

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