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President's son threatens libel suit against newspaper

(CEMESP/IFEX) - March 28, 2012 - The son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is also Chairman of the Board of the Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia, has threatened to file a libel suit against the Independent newspaper.

Robert Sirleaf, who also doubles as Special Advisor to his mother, the President, has taken great exception to an article published by the newspaper under the headline: "Sirleaf's Oil or Liberia's Oil? ...As Robert Sirleaf Hijacks Five Oil Blocks."

In a letter from Taylor and Associates Inc representing the President's son, it is stated that “On the basis of the lead banner story, Mr. Sirleaf has expressed surprise and great indignation over the fact that he has no knowledge as to being in possession of any oil well as is carried in your article.”

The March 5 publication, among other things, insinuated that “Robert Sirleaf has reportedly seized five of Liberia's offshore oil blocks for commercial purposes.” It added that Robert Sirleaf had dispatched his friend, former Economic Affairs Minister at the Executive Mansion Samuel P. Jackson, to South Africa to source partners to take over the seized concession.

Lawyers representing Robert Sirleaf are demanding “forensic evidence” from the newspaper for an article they insist was published with a sinister motive of exposing their client to public ridicule, disgrace, hatred, security risks, and above all to disparage his character.

“If the paper were truly knowledgeable about the facts, it would have not used [the word] 'reportedly'; it would have written 'Robert Sirleaf has seized,'” according to the letter dated March 20, signed by Counselor-at-Law Milton D. Taylor.

The Independent newspaper drew a parallel in the alleged oil ambitions of the President's son with that of the son of the President of Equatorial Guinea.

The Independent newspaper has, by the letter from Taylor and Associates, been given an “ultimatum of forty eight hours to make a retraction in four successive publications, in two print media, or else we will be left with no option but to institute the necessary legal action befitting your conduct.”

Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP) has notified its Medial Legal Defence Initiative Project Lawyers to monitor the matter for possible representation if it comes to court.

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