Liberia's government has rejected calls from international press groups to release an editor jailed for publishing an official audit which accuses an ex-minister of corruption.

Rodney Sieh, publisher and editor of the independent newspaper FrontPageAfrica, was arrested Aug. 21 after failing to pay $1.5 million in damages awarded to former Agriculture Minister Chris Toe. Police closed the paper's offices two days later. Sieh then launched a hunger strike and was hospitalized last week with malaria.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has endorsed the repeal of criminal defamation laws, yet multiple libel convictions have been handed down during her time in office.

In a statement Tuesday, Liberia's information ministry said the court's verdict against Sieh should be respected.