Liberia: Court Arrests Journalist Sekou Sheriff for Alleged Blackmail, Criminal Coercion

In a surprising development, Journalist Sekou Sheriff, CEO of The Voice of Liberia (VOL), a radio station in Monrovia, was arrested on Thursday, January 4, by a sheriff of the court after the Monrovia City Magisterial Court issued a warrant for him.

The charges brought against Sheriff include Criminal Coercion, Harassment, Blackmailing, and Disorderly Conduct. These allegations stem from a series of purported defamatory acts towards Commerce Minister Mawine G. Diggs.

The complaint, filed by the Republic of Liberia through Diggs, accuses Sheriff of intentionally tarnishing Diggs' character through social media and a talk show. According to the complaint, the alleged incidents occurred between December 30, 2023, and January 4, 2024.

The complaint claims that false accusations, public ridicule, and the unauthorized release of private information were involved. Legal action has been taken based on specific sections of the New Penal Law of Liberia, specifically Sections 14.27, 14.28, and 17.3.

The complainant argues that Sheriff's actions were aimed at damaging Diggs’ reputation, business standing, and overall credibility. The controversy surrounding this case reached a climax on January 4, 2024, when Sheriff was accused of further spreading damaging allegations against Diggs and even divulging her private contact number through the airwaves.

This high-profile case has sparked debates concerning the boundaries of free speech and the potential consequences of using social media platforms and public forums to launch personal attacks.

It also highlights the broader issue of cyberbullying and the potential legal consequences for those who engage in online harassment. 

Additionally, the CEO of The Voice of Liberia has also faced accusations of using his media platform to engage in blackmail against government officials and foreign business owners for the past six years.

However, the VOL CEO was later seen on social media jubilating that he had been released by the court on grounds that the lawsuit had no magnitude, but this could not be independently verified by the Daily Observer. Sheriff and his VOL bragged that they had every piece of evidence to substantiate his allegations against the Minister.

Meanwhile, as the legal proceedings unfold, the public awaits a potential courtroom drama that would provide insight into the intersecting realms of social media, defamation, and the limits of free expression in Liberia.