News Brief
The detained FrontPage Africa journalists. Photo via Facebook

Staff at Liberia's Biggest Newspaper Arrested

Many worry that the 'FrontPage Africa' closure and arrest of its staff could be a sign of things to come under a George Weah government.

A Liberian newspaper known for its investigative approach to covering politics has been shut down, its offices closed, and its staff arrested by police. Officially the closure and arrests are due to a civil matter, but the shut down has major implications for freedom of speech in Liberia.


Full disclosure: I used to work in the FrontPage Africa offices while working for the organization Journalists for Human Rights. I was there in 2011 when the editor Rodney Sieh was arrested over a story that pointed to corruption taking place at the highest levels of government. His arrest and the closure of the FrontPage Africa offices, while not officially coming from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a frequent target of the paper's criticism, nevertheless had a chilling effect on Liberian journalists and their ability to investigate corruption allegations without fear of arrest. In Liberia, spurious libel cases are often effective ways to shut down reporting on corruption.

The government of recently elected President George Weah has distanced themselves from the arrests, releasing a press statement emphasizing that this was a matter with the courts and the complainant. See below:

Rodney Sieh, FrontPage Africa's editor and publisher, who was overseas during the arrests, gave this response to OkayAfrica:

Contrary to what the ministry of information, we are strongly convinced that the government is definitely behind what happened today and the Presidency is in the know. Why was it necessary to shut down our newspaper and arrest our staff?

The Civil Law Court issued two separate instructions to the Sheriff against Frontpage Africa all dated 5th April 2018: Additionally, summons was issued for FPA as Defendants to appear or April 15th 2018; A separate summons was issued for FPA to appear in JUNE 2018. So, was it really necessary to arrest and shut down our premises?

Finally, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told the VOA in an interview that since the government case to office we have not published any positive stories about the new government. While we are not the mouthpiece of the government that assertion is far from the truth. Modern technology offers easy access to search the net and see that we have carried a lot of positive stories. It is not our fault when our investigation leads in the negative direction.

We owe no favors and demand nothing from anyone. The government's actions today will not keep us from doing our investigative work but will only strengthen us to do more.

We are aware that government operatives have been using fake social media accounts to attack our credibility and issue threats against me and my staff - with some suggesting arson.

We will not back down neither would we waiver. President Weah's failure to keep his supporters from raining threats on the media falls on his record and his presidency. Should anything happen to me or any member of my staff our blood will be on his hands.

The government's denial is the oldest trick in the book- hide behind civil lawsuits to strike and suppress the press.

According to Mae Azango, one of the journalists detained and a star reporter known for her impactful stories, the paper's staff were released on bond and expected to show up in court tomorrow.

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Photo by Carielle Doe/AFP for Getty Images.

Anti-Government Protests Engulf Liberia Amid Economic Crisis

Thousands of Liberians have taken to the streets to protest against the country's spiraling economy under President George Weah.

A few hours ago, the Liberian police was deployed after at least 3000 Liberians took to the streets of Monrovia in anti-government protests.

Aljazeera reports that the police fired tear gas and water canons on Liberians protesting the country's spiraling economy under the leadership of President George Weah. The protest is the second massive demonstration to take place in less than year.

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(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100)

Tiwa Savage, Sauti Sol, 2Baba, Toofan & More to Perform at AFRIMA Music Village Festival

The star-studded event will take place ahead of the award show and includes a host of artists from across the continent.

The 6th annual All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) celebrations, which recognize African talent from across the continent, are set to take place between November 20-23 in Lagos, Nigeria. Several events will take place ahead of the award show, including the star-studded AFRIMA Music Village Festival which will feature performances from some of the top artists in the industry.

The show's lineup has just been announced and it features over 30 acts from all regions of the continent.

The AFRIMAs once again are not to be confused with the AFRIMMAs (African Muzik Magazine Awards) which took place in Dallas, Texas in October.

UPDATE: See the full list of AFRIMA 2019 winners here.

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Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

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