Liberian Journalist Jonathan Paye-Layleh, who reports for the BBC and the Associated Press, might be breathing relief since he left here somewhat surreptitiously for the United States in what could be an attempt to seek asylum after expressing fears for his life.
Paye-Layleh, who reported for the BBC extensively during the Liberian Civil War in the 90s, particularly from Gbarnga Bong County then headquarters of former rebel leader now jailed ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, expressed fears for his life recently after President George Manneh Weah accused him of working against his (Weah’s) advocacy for human rights during the civil war by promoting the carnage from the other side (former Greater Liberia) long before coming to the presidency.
He left the country probably early this week via the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County after writing an open letter, calling on First Lady, Mrs. Clar Weah, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor and the Press Union of Liberia to seek clarifications from the President about the charge, which was made during a press stake-out attended by the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Madam Amina Mohammed.
According to the journalist, his fears stem from the fact that the claims came from the President of the Republic of Liberia, who commands enormous support from the Liberian populace, as evidenced by his overwhelming victory in the 26 December 2017 run-off presidential election.
Pay-Layleh maintains that the President’s claims against him could lead any of his hundreds of thousands of overzealous supporters both in Monrovia across the country to physically attack him or terminate his life.
The BBC reporter had asked President Weah that giving the fact that thousands of Liberians died from the civil war as a result of atrocities that were committed by various armed factions, whether he (Weah) and the United Nations are prepared to support a world crimes court in Liberia, as requested by Human Rights Watch, to enable victims of the wars face their alleged perpetrators.
In a subsequent clarification following intense pressure, the Executive Mansion issued a release, saying, “The Office of the President clarifies that as a long-time champion of human rights and an ardent advocate of peace and social justice, he only sought to remind Mr. Paye Layleh during his response to question asked, that when he was advocating for justice and creating awareness of the gross human rights violations that were being perpetrated against the Liberian people during the fourteen years civil conflict, he (Paye-Layleh) and others were bent on undermining his efforts by depicting a positive image of the carnage.
But in a quick challenge to the President’s claims, the Association of Liberian Journalist based in the Americas or AJA, says Mr.Weah, before his election as President of Liberia, only served as UNICEF Ambassador for Children, and was never a human rights campaigner as he claims.
Meanwhile, the Press Union of Liberia or PUL, is calling journalists here, including managers and editors to a meeting today, Thursday, 5April at its headquarters in Monrovia. Story by Jonathan Browne