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Liberian journalist claims death threat

–Petitions LNP and Legislature

By Lewis S. Teh

Liberian broadcast journalist Sekou Sheriff has petitioned the Liberia National Police (LNP) and the 54th Legislature seeking their intervention in alleged death threats against his life.

Sheriff petitioned the lawmakers and the Liberia National Police or LNP on capitol hill in Monrovia on Thursday, 16 February 2023.

The Chief Executive Officer of privately run Voice of Liberia accuses a Lebanese business tycoon, Ali Kobeissi in the alleged death threat complaint.

“Honorable Legislators, I humbly seek your intervention as the people’s deputies to ensure my safety and that justice is served immediately in this grave matter,” Mr. Sheriff complained.

This paper could not immediately verify Mr. Sheriff’s claims against Mr. Kobeissi and other alleged foreign businesses as they could not be reached up to press time.

He said he honestly doesn’t know the next move of the accused, Mr. Ali, against his life.

Presenting separate petitions to the police and the lawmakers, Mr. Sheriff narrated that he sought and obtained classified documentation and collaborative testimonies from whistle-blowers linking some foreign businesses to an alleged criminal syndicate.

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He said those documents allegedly linked the foreign businesses to defrauding the Liberian government of money in taxes.

According to him, as the investigative process was ongoing, he received a telephone call on Tuesday, 7 February 2023 from a man who identified himself as Ali Kobeissi.

Sheriff alleged that Kobeissi claimed to be the owner of the Building Material Center on the Capitol Bye-Pass. 

During the alleged telephone conversation, Sheriff alleged, Ali, mandated him to immediately abandon his ongoing investigation or risk losing his life.

He indicated that what got him terrified was during the telephone conversation, Ali reminded him on multiple occasions to record the conversation.

The Voice of Liberia CEO stated that Ali advised him not to take his threats lightly, bragging that he is connected to all the top-ranking officials of the government.

According to him, information in the public shows that the Lebanese national – Ali is the only foreign national riding a vehicle with Siren and it is alleged that he has a gun in his possession.  

“Whereas, being worried about the threats against my life, I immediately wrote to the Liberia National Police, the National Commission on Human Rights, and other institutions on February 10, 2023, bringing to their attention the threats from Ali,” Sheriff’s statement said.

At the same time, the talk show host intoned that despite the Liberia National Police’s responsibility to maintain law and order as well as ensure safety, the entity is yet to investigate this matter. 

The journalist noted that the delay on the part of the police to investigate this matter clearly shows that the LNP does not have an interest in protecting his life. 

“Whereas, I viewed the conduct of the Police as a deliberate attempt to protect a foreign national over a Liberian who has done nothing wrong to deserve such a threat,” he intimated. 

The broadcast journalist continued that amid the reported number of questionable deaths that have occurred in Liberia over the last few years, he is constrained to remind the Police that his life is in the hands of the LNP as it delays in investigating the matter. 

“Just as Ali said, I am now beginning to believe that nothing will be done to ensure justice but let us use this petition to let the world know that my safety going forward rests on the shoulders of Ali and the Liberia National police,” Sheriff cried out.

However, Sheriff noted that for far too long the issue of journalists’ safety has been taken for granted in Liberia.

He said the country has a long history of repression of the media, adding that this dates back to autocratic regimes before the war where many perceived journalists as people who should accept attacks and victimization as an accompaniment of the profession- deemed as risky.  

The broadcast journalist reminded legislators and the LNP that upon taking office in 2018, the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government headed by President George Weah renewed his government’s commitment to upholding the tenets of press freedom and the protection of journalists.

He said the President also signed into law the Kamara Abdullah Kamara (KAK) Act of Press Freedom.

“Whereas, The KAK Act of Press Freedom also strengthens and actualizes Liberia’s commitment to several legal instruments signed onto, such as [the] Freedom of Information Act, the Table Mountain Declaration, and many others,” he added. 

Receiving the petition from Sekou Sheriff with the citizens who accompanied him to seek justice, Nimba County District Four Representative Gunpue L. Kargon promised to deliver the petition to Mr. Bhofal Chambers, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Representative Kargon also assured Mr. Sheriff that his communication will surface on the floor of the plenary next Tuesday, February 21, 2023, for discussion and subsequent action.

The Nimba County lawmaker, who is also the Chair of the House’s Committee on Claims and Petitions termed himself as the face of the young people.

As such, he said he will ensure that the death threat against the Liberian broadcast journalist will be looked into by plenary.

While also receiving Shieff’s petition on behalf of the Liberia National Police, the LNP Commissioner Prince Davies assured the complainant that the communication will be forwarded to the Police Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue.

Commissioner Davies thanked the broadcast journalist and the citizens for peacefully and orderly conducting themselves in seeking redress to their concerns.

Sheriff was escorted through a peaceful match by hundreds of citizens in solidarity with him from the Capitol By-Pass to the headquarters of the LNP and the Capitol Building. 

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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