Sep 15 2013

Speaking truth to Sirleaf: African journalists stand their ground

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 10:19 AM

The latest instance of Ellen Sirleaf’s monumental fraud on the international community — and her “subjects” in benighted Liberia — is the arrest and humuliation of one of West Africa’s bravest journalists, Rodney Sieh, editor of FrontPage Africa, a dissenting newspaper in Liberia of outsized proportions.
Sirleaf is hugely controversial because of her history of helping military dictators in her native Liberian, an invonvenient truth about her that no manner of international praise can seem to fully wash away. Now in her second term as Liberia’s president, Sirleaf seems only to have accomplished her own personal rehabiliation. Liberia is no closer to independent, self-sustenance than before Sirleaf reign, and there are signs that her government is proving as insidiously corrupt and ineffective as preceding Liberian administrations. While Sirleaf shows no appetite for the murderous forms of repression that animated her one-time ally, Charles Taylor (now in prison), she increasingly embraces the tools of authoritarians. Her decision to jail the enterprising and conscientious Rodney Sieh, while audacious, may prove to be a blunder too far even for a celebrated female psuedo-celebrity of African origins if not African sensibilities. In a New York Times article, in which editor Sieh makes a strong case for both his immediate release from a Liberian hospital, where he is held by armed guards for failing to pay damages awarded in a super-spurious civil suit.
Sieh contracted malaria in jail, and he alleges that Sirleaf’s government aims to bankrupt him — to shut down his dissenting newspaper. That would be convenient for Sirleaf, obviating the need to imprison him and sparing her the embarassment of another example of her hypocrisy.
Repression of talented African journalists is rare than most suspect. The African press is freer than ever, certainly during the colonial period, when European authorities periodically crushed dissenting journalists; and African journalists are freer, and better paid, than during the long night of post-independence, when many African governments monopolized the TV and radio airways and effectively purchased the loyalties of print reporters. From Kenya and Uganda to Zambia and Ghana, African journalists are exposing wrong-doing, documenting strengths and weaknesses of their societies, and expanding their core domestic audiences at levels unseen in African history. The journalism revolution faces some opposition. In Uganda, for instance, the Museveni government has harassed top reporters and even shut down news organizations for short periods. In Zambia, new president Michael Sata is growing impatient with Internet journalists. Everywhere in Africa “big men” often presume they can pay off journalists in order to prevent critical reports from appearing. Yet a new generation of African journalists, weaned on the Internet and hewing increasingly to global standards for production of journalism, appear up to the task of standing their ground. May we root for them to do so.

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