Rodney D. Sieh is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Liberia’s biggest selling independent newspaper and website FrontPage Africa. Under Sieh’s leadership FrontPage Africa has set a new standard for journalism in Liberia with groundbreaking reporting that has brought down senior government figures and exposed corruption at all levels. In partnership with New Narratives, FrontPage Africa has also shone a spotlight on issues impacting large swathes of ordinary Liberians that are not regularly reported such as female genital cutting, the impact of rising food prices, drug trafficking, teen pregnancy and prostitution. The paper has also broken new ground in the large number of women journalists it employs. Wade Williams is Liberia’s first ever woman newsroom chief. Mae Azango and Tecee Boley are among the first women to reach Senior Reporter ranks.
The FrontPage Africa/New Narratives team has won a string of national awards including Journalist of the Year and Media House of the Year. It has also won major international awards including the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Press Freedom Award, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Award, a Dag Hammarskjold fellowship, the German Development Media prize for Africa and two Pulitzer fellowships. Their work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, the PBS NewsHour and elsewhere.
FrontPage Africa’s success is owed in part to its business model. The paper funds its operations with advertising from the website which primarily serves a relatively wealthy international audience. This ensures FrontPage Africa’s journalists have the resources and income they need to report independently.
In August 2013 Sieh was jailed and FrontPage Africa shutdown for failing to pay a libel verdict of $1.5m won by former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. (Read Sieh’s op-ed from jail in The New York Times here.) Toe sued Sieh and the paper after it published the findings of an independent audit that found $6m of ministerial funds unaccounted for. Toe was dismissed and became one of scores of government members who have been identified by the corruption watchdog and fired but never prosecuted. Despite an international outcry Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has refused to intervene and Sieh remains imprisoned.
Sieh is a veteran Liberian journalist with more than two decades experience. During the height of the civil war in Liberia, he was a senior reporter for the Monrovia Daily News, venturing on the frontlines with ECOMOG peacekeepers to report on the casualties and progress of the devastating war.
In 1992, Sieh fled Liberia for The Gambia to help his uncle Kenneth Best, a highly regarded Liberian journalist, run the independent Daily Observer. While in The Gambia, Rodney became a correspondent for the BBC. During the 1994 coup there Sieh braved gunfire to score the first interview with the new ruler Yahyay Jammeh and his key lieutenants. In the aftermath of the coup Sieh covered a string of disappearances and mysterious killings. When Sieh’s uncle Best was arrested in late September 1994, Sieh broke the news on the BBC and soon after Jammeh’s forces went out in search of him, forcing him into hiding. Sieh fled to London en route to the United States. Sieh and Best are still held in high esteem by many Gambian journalists for their roles in lifting the standard of independent journalism in the country.
A graduate with honors in Media Studies from Hunter College, Sieh has worked with several U.S. newspapers including Newport News, Syracuse Post Standard and the Daily Record. He worked as an intern at the Newark Star Ledger and the Kansas City Star. At Hunter College, Sieh, was among the pilot team which launched the first online college newspaper, The Word, which many students past and present use to build their resumes and journalism credentials.
Sieh, and a small dedicated team, launched FrontPageAfrica.com in 2005 and the print edition in 2009. In a short time it has become the most widely read newspaper in Liberia and the website enjoys almost 20 millions visits a month.